Prayers for the Journey

Bonnie Harr prayer

Bonnie Harr prayer

Its the end of the week. Time to post prayers from my facebook page Light for the Journey. You will notice that there is a lot more to post this week. I am enlisting the help of others in posting on this page and am excited at the broadening richness of prayers and reflections this will make possible. New contributors to the page include Jamie Arpin Ricci author of The Cost of Community and founder of Litte Flowers community in Winnipeg Manitoba; Phileena Heuertz co-founder of Word Made Flesh and author of Pilgrimage of a Soul; Micha Jazz a contemplative activist in Chichester UK and a member of the Axiom Monastic Community; Bonnie Harr who posts prayers and reflections at In His Footsteps; John Birch who posts Celtic Prayers and Resources at Faith and Worship; Mary Plate DeJong who leads pilgrimages to Iona Scotland and is Forest Steward for one of Seattle’s urban forests and Mark Scandrette author of Practicing the Way of Jesus and founding director of ReIMAGINE in San Francisco.

If you would like to access these prayers and reflections each day please like the Light for the Journey Facebook page

Calm my wandering thoughts O Lord,

Quiet the turmoil of my soul.

Place your hand upon me,

Let me touch the deep abiding stillness,

In which your presence dwells.

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God’s heartbeat pumps within us

and gives us life.

Gods Spirit dwells within us

and shows us truth.

God’s love grows within us

and brings us hope.

May God’s presence guide our feet

and keep us on the path of faithfulness.

——————————

It is for you we live O Christ,

Fulfill your faithful promises,

Answer our needs O Lord.

Fill us with joy and peace

And show us the light of your face.

——————————

O God your love is eternal,

It exceeds all we ever knew of you.

Your faithfulness strengthens my soul

It fills me with the goodness of life.

——————————

Bless this day

all that I might see

all that I might hear

all that I might say

Bless this day

all that I might comfort

all that I might help

all that I might guide

Bless this day

(www.faithandworship.com)

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I lay my head to rest

and in doing so

lay at your feet

the faces I have seen

the voices I have heard

the words I have spoken

the hands I have shaken

the service I have given

the joys I have shared

the sorrows revealed

I lay them at your feet

and in doing so

lay my head to rest

(www.faithandworship.com)

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Praying The Sermon On The Mount

Lord and Creator, let us embrace the costly blessings which you desire for us, blessings that confound the wisdom and strength of this world.

Teach us to be your agents of preservation in a world touched by death, and beacons of hope in a world shrouded in darkness.

Transform us into your image through the crucible of the cross, writing your mandates upon our hearts, made pure by you perfect love.

Embolden us to be your ambassadors,

Living as representatives of your holy kingdom, stirring in us your love for others, especially for those who would seek to destroy us because of you.

Make us decrease so that you might increase, as a watching world sees you, not us.

Daily we declare that your priorities are ours, even before our own needs and desires.

Every moment we live, we live for your glory—the glory of a loving Father and a just King.

Free us of any distraction, craving or anxiety that would keep us from fully following you.

For we acknowledge that everything we could possibly need is yours to give us. Remind us of our sinful brokenness and your gift of grace as we encounter brokenness in others.

You are the answer to our every question. you are the treasure that we desperately seek, and it is you who invite us into your salvation, as prodigals returning to the Father’s embrace.

Keep us upon your path of righteousness and justice, bearing the good fruit of your Spirit, for it is on you, Lord Jesus, that all hope is built,

For all of creation, now and forever more.

Amen

A prayer from The Cost of Community by Jamie Arpin Ricci

A meditation by Micha Jazz:

The prayers for my Morning office today opened with the splendid declaration ‘Let us give glory to God on high, who from His fullness have received grace upon grace’. This was a wonderful reflection and indeed provocation since I had been awake burning the midnight oil, with my head filled with cascading thoughts. Yet to be reminded and remind myself that ours, mine, is a life forged from grace and sustained by grace is indeed timely. I feel acutely my inability to find my way back into the workplace following Katey’s death four years ago – the mediation service I work with for two days a week isn’t growing and after 13 years is much as it ever as. Holding onto grace when all I want to do is implode is indeed a discipline and a constructive practice. lord in your mercy, hear my prayer. MJ

Practicing the Way of Jesus – by Mark Scandrette #3

This is the third and final post in a series from an interview with Mark Scandrette on his book Practicing the Way of Jesus.  Mark is the founding director of ReIMAGINE, a collective that invites people into integrative spiritual experiments and practices, (with an emphasis on creativity, community building and social action). Each year he hosts a series of projects, retreats and workshops that explore and inhabit various core themes in the way of Jesus. He lives with his wife and three high school aged children in an old Victorian in San Francisco’s Mission District.

A new way is possible

A new way is possible

In the second part of your book you talk about specific areas of experimenting – identity, purpose, security, community and freedom and peace.  This is pretty radical experimentation.  Can you share a few stories of how people have lived out experiments in these areas.

 

Asking the what if questions

Asking the what if questions

This book is full of stories and examples of what groups of people have actually done to take steps to practice the Way of Jesus. Our original group started out by imaginatively asking “what if questions.” What if instead of just talking about prayer we actually prayed?” This led to our first group silent prayer retreat. “What if instead of just learning about God’s heart for justice we take tangible steps to help affected people?” This led to intentional friendships with homeless friends, a neighborhood safety campaign and initiatives to address local human trafficking.

Or, “What if instead of just confessing our areas of brokenness we took steps to support each other in making positive changes?” This question led us to a shared practice called “Experiments in truth” in which we each commit to a radical life change over 40 days. Through this many of us discovered the power of taking vows and applying disciplines of abstinence and engagement to our persistent issues.  We discovered that in the solidarity of a group we could make life changes that we hadn’t been able to on our own.

Our neighbourhood matters - lets keep it clean

Our neighbourhood matters - lets keep it clean

In the opening chapter of the book I describe one of the most memorable experiments we’ve done. In response to Jesus instruction, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor,” a group of us decided to sell or give away half of our possessions and donate the proceeds to global poverty relief. That provocative step opened up deeper questions of heart motivation, spending patterns and the accumulation of debt. As a result we saw people in our group pay down their debts, learn to practice contentment and gratitude, live more simply and sustainably and experience great freedom and simplicity in their lives.

 

Our neighbourhood - what we do matters

Our neighbourhood - what we do matters

My challenge to readers is to think about a change you want to make in response to the vision of life Jesus offers and then ban together with others to take a practical step. Although some of the stories I share in the book might seem radical, the deeper point I’m trying to make is that we can each take a next step, even if its a baby step,  to practice the way of Jesus.

Say no to violence

Say no to violence

Practicing the Way of Jesus – An Interview with Mark Scandrette #2

This is the second post in a series from an interview with Mark Scandrette on his book Practicing the Way of Jesus.  Mark is the founding director of ReIMAGINE, a collective that invites people into integrative spiritual experiments and practices, (with an emphasis on creativity, community building and social action). Each year he hosts a series of projects, retreats and workshops that explore and inhabit various core themes in the way of Jesus. He lives with his wife and three high school aged children in an old Victorian in San Francisco’s Mission District.

The be at Peace Project Portland

The be at Peace Project Portland

You talk a lot about experimenting with embodied faith.  What do you mean by that and why is it important?

Taking steps to experiment with how to embody our faith is important for several reasons. One, is that we have been invited into a transformed life– by the example, sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus– into a new way to be human that is characterized by love. Second, transformation happens through taking risks of new action to cooperate with God’s grace. The Apostle Paul once wrote, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who works in you…” (Philippians 2:12-13)  I like to describe this process as an experiment because we are testing out what new actions and habits make us most available to the work of the spirit. A crisis I see in the church today is the wide gap between what we say we believe and how most of us actually live. We seem to have an insatiable quest for knowledge and understanding. We’ve operated for a long time under the misguided notion that right thinking by itself will lead to right and good living. But the reality of the kingdom of love, described by Jesus, has to be experienced to be understood– by taking practical steps of obedience and then reflecting on those outcomes.

 

Group practicing contemplative Prayer

Group practicing contemplative Prayer

It is clear, from the sermon on the Mount, that Jesus intended for us to put his teachings into practice (Matthew 7:24). To do this we can ask ourselves a few helpful questions:  “What is Jesus inviting us into?” “How do his instructions connect with the details of our lives and the situation and struggles of our society?” And, “what steps can we take to practically respond to his vision and instructions?” For most of us, it is easier to make a change or take a step of risk if we are able to do so in solidarity with at least one other person. Jesus sent his disciples out to experiment in groups of two and the radical love of the beloved community we read about in the book of Acts was a phenomenon of collective action. Historically, when people have wanted to take the teachings of Jesus seriously, they band together in groups of common action and practice to resist the dominant culture.

I think this book is tapping into a widely felt hunger for a way of life shaped by Jesus.   After two months, the book went into its second printing and has been translated into several other languages.  Almost every week I get an message from someone saying that they are organizing a group in their church or neighborhood to be a community of practice. A group in Portland decided to ban together to practice how to “Be at Peace” and as a result, one member of the group reconciled with his deeply wounded ex wife.” A group in Salt Lake city took steps over the summer to simplify their lives by working to give away half of their material possessions. A group in Oslo, Norway will be meeting for the first time this week to commit to a shared daily practice of stillness prayer for the next 30 days.

 

 

 

Practicing the Way of Jesus – An Interview with Mark Scandrette #1

Over the next few days I will post several parts of an interview with Mark Scandrette on his book Practicing the Way of Jesus.  Mark is the founding director of ReIMAGINE, a collective that invites people into integrative spiritual experiments and practices, (with an emphasis on creativity, community building and social action). Each year he hosts a series of projects, retreats and workshops that explore and inhabit various core themes in the way of Jesus. He lives with his wife and three high school aged children in an old Victorian in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Practicing Way of Jesus

Practicing Way of Jesus - by Mark Scandrette

“One experience of embodied intentional practice can teach more than a year’s worth of Sunday School…. Wherever possible we need to create environments that include both good instruction and opportunities for shared action.”  What exactly do you mean by that and what are a couple of practical examples of how churches could live that out?

There was a time when most people lived and worked and worshipped in closer proximity to a particular place people. Due to mobility and meta economic forces, most of us today live in one place, work in another and worship or create community elsewhere. Our lives are increasingly fragmented. Because of this we have to become more intentional to close the gap between how we want to live and how we actually live. In this day and age I don’t think its enough to talk about living out God’s shalom. As one of friend so poignantly put it, “A lot of us are talking smack about the kingdom of God, but not doing jack.” To address the “disembodiment” of the modern age, we can invite one another into shared actions in response to gospel vision.  We need spaces and contexts where we can live out the teachings of Jesus together in the messy details of life– spaces more akin to a karate studio than a college lecture hall. I I think this is why we are seeing a renewed interest in a theology of place and the pursuit of neighborhood-based Christian community.

Once when I was a child, I watched my dad bring home a man who he found passed out in a snowy ditch. I saw my parents welcome him into our home and into our church community. He became my “uncle” Leroy and spent Sundays and holidays with our family. I saw the story of the good Samaritan lived out in front of me and I was invited to participate. I think that experience opened my expectations for what it might mean for me to embody the compassion of Christ. To caring on that legacy, we’ve taken our children along to feast with our homeless friends and they have helped us welcome vulnerable people into our home. This week my daughter is throwing a birthday party for one of her friends who is without parents– and I’d like to think that she does this quite naturally because of the way she has seen hospitality modeled and practiced in our family.

 

See you next month

See you next month

Congregations can encourage embodied faith by creating the expectation and opportunities for shared action and practices. A small group can be transformed into a place of practice by simply seeding the question, “What is one thing we can each do between now and the next time we meet to practice what we have explored together?” I know of congregations who, in response to global poverty, invited one another to eat on $2 a day for for a time, collecting the savings to give to organizations that address hunger or clean water. A church can invite its members into shared times of contemplative prayer or service at a local shelter or into a shared spiritual discipline. As a way to address the addictive tendencies of electronic media, many communities have done experiments with limiting or fasting from facebook or internet use for a period of time. I think the simplest way to get started with experiments like this is considering one step you would personally like to take to live in the Jesus way and invite one other person to take on that action or practice with you.

A community effort

A community effort

 

 

Reading the Scriptures – Do We Know How To Study?

Icon of Christ

Christ the word who gives life to all creation

Today’s post in the series  Reading the Scriptures – How, When and Why?  focuses on how to study the scriptures.

When I first became a Christian in Australia, I was introduced to Scripture Union and the wonderful resources they make available for scripture study.  I loved the encouragement they gave me to read through the whole Bible over a three year period.  Then I was introduced to J Sidlow Baxter’s Explore the Book  a wonderful, single volume overview of each book of the Bible that greatly enriched my understanding of the Biblical story.  Over the years I have participated in a variety of Bible studies, read numerous commentaries and listened to innumerable lectures expounding the scriptures but I will always be grateful to that initial prompting I received to read every book of the Bible.   I encounter a number of Christians who have never read huge portions of the scriptures.  They focus only on what they enjoy reading and that often gives a very distorted view of what God is saying

So here are my recommendations:

  1. Read through the entire Bible at least once ever five years.  Do this in conjunction with a good overview book like Explore the Book (though I am sure that there are many other more recent ones available).  Alternatively attend a class that provides this overview.
  2. Enter into a regular Bible reading discipline that integrates Old and New Testament readings.  Over the last few years Tom and I have read the daily readings from the Book of Common prayer.  What I most enjoy is the way that they link the gospel stories to the historic passages from the Old Testament that Jesus referred to and his audiences knew well.  This juxtaposition has provided many aha! moments for me and have given me a deeper understanding of the gospel story.  You can download the entire year’s readings here
  3. Do in depth studies of at least one book a year in conjunction with a good commentary.  I recently received Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes by Kenneth E Bailey, from IVP and am really looking forward to getting into this in depth “uncommon” study of 1 Corinthians.  I not only like to get into a good commentary, I like to explore ones like this that stretch my understanding and so expand and enrich my faith
  4. Study together with friends.  Join or form an inductive bible study group.  The bible is not meant to be studied alone.  It is a book for reading aloud, for savouring together, and for discussing together how to apply what you have learned.
  5. Put feet on your study.  What we read and study will take up residence in our minds alone if we do not apply what we are learning to our daily lives.  Mark Scandrette’s book Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love is a great example of a book that helps us do that
The Bible is a rich and enduring font of knowledge that never runs dry.  We should enter its study with expectant hearts believe that God will speak – challenging us, strengthening us, comforting us and revealing more of who God is, and who God intends us to be.  So I hope that those of you who are not studying the bible regularly will take up this challenge and enter more deeply into the word of God.

Practicing the Way of Jesus – Reflections on a book by Mark Scandrette.

Practicing the Way of Jesus - Mark Scandrette

Practicing the Way of Jesus - Mark Scandrette

I am currently reading Mark Scandrette’s book Practicing the Way of Jesus: Life together in the Kingdom of Love.  It is a great book with lots of very practical suggestions on how to follow Jesus in every part of our lives.  Mark talks a lot about the physicality of spiritual formation.  This is a book about putting our faith into action in simple practical ways that are well within reach for all of us.

I particularly enjoy Mark’s “experiments” where he and friends read the gospels asking the question: How does what Jesus did and taught connect with the real circumstances of our lives and the needs of our world?”.  

Such a great question that all of us need not just to ask more frequently but also put into action.  I love the practical way that this translates into actions.  For example when Mark was a child his father would have them grapple with questions like “Let’s think who our neighbours are.   What can we do to love them?”  Listen to Mark tell the story.

Together we would generate a list of ideas to enact over the coming weeks: Invite neighbour Joe over for dinner.  Shovel snow for the elderly couple down the block.  Welcome a friend from school whose family is in crisis to spend the weekend at our house.  One memorable holiday season my parents created a project to help us learn how to bless our neighbours.  Over several nights we made Christmas decorations and cookies and then went door to door distributing them with an invitation to come to a holiday party.  A few weeks later our home was full of neighbours, many of whom were meeting for the first time.  The party really brought the neighbourhood together, and I still remember the excitement of being a part of something bigger than myself.

I love this idea of taking the scriptures and translating them into concrete actions.  I have asked Mark to contribute some guest posts on his book that should help broaden this discussion, but my question for today is What would it look like in your neighbourhood to love your neighbours?   What are small practical things that you could do to be the love of Jesus to friend and stranger alike?  Watching this video may help you make some decisions

Love-Making As A Spiritual Practice

The submissions are coming in thick and fast at the moment for the What is a Spiritual Practice series.  I will probably post twice a day over the next couple of days in order to keep pace.  Wonderful reflections.  I love to read through each one before I post it and there are a number that I have found increasing my understanding of God and where God is at work in the world.  Another quote from Henri Nouwen’s The Genesee Diary that comes to mind as I grapple with the fact that God is indeed present in every part of life and of our world.

We can neither explain God nor his presence in history. As soon as we identify God with any specific event or situation, we play God and distort the truth.  We only can be faithful in our affirmation that God has not deserted us but calls us in the middle of all the unexplainable absurdities of life.

God is indeed present in the unexplainable absurdities of life.  God is also present in inexplicable ways in the activities of life we think we understand.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God because the love of God permeates all of life and all of creation.

This morning’s post comes from Mark Scandrette cofounder and executive Director of ReIMAGINE: A Center for Life Formation based in San Francisco and author of SOUL GRAFFITI: Making A Life in the Way of Jesus.

Love-Making As a Spiritual Practice

“Fire crackers like gun fire

Shatter the velvet silence of sweet release

with you in my arms.”

When I shared the poetic lines I wrote above with a group of friends, reactions were mixed. One friend nodded with the knowing relish of common experience. Others squirmed uncomfortably as what was spoken was too private or salacious.  Despite the fact that sexuality is central to what it means to be human and to be alive, so often it is a dimension of our lives that is fraught with conflicted feelings, secrecy, wounds or shame. Here are examples of common themes I hear in conversations among friends:

“We’ve never been able to talk about sex– I don’t think my spouse would understand what I need or want.”

“I stayed up all night twice this week looking at internet porn.”

“My partner and I haven’t had sex for almost a year. It brings up too much pain about my childhood trauma. ”

“I thought that if we got married, the same-sex attraction would go away.”

“I accidently made out with someone I just met at the party last weekend. We may have had too much to drink.”

“My spouse just caught me pursuing someone I met online. This has opened up the wounds and broken the trust we have tried to rebuild after the affair nine years ago. But I feel desperate for soul connection with someone.”

“I wonder why I haven’t found anyone to marry yet. I’m so hungry to share life with someone and experience intimacy. What’s wrong with me?”

The yearning to connect with another human being in whole person ecstasy is a sacred gift that is frankly overwhelming in its potency. And often it is the unspoken energy that is shaping our relationships with one another and our sense of belonging to God. It is a beautiful treasure that needs to be awakened, cultivated, disciplined and celebrated.

Knowing that our sexuality is a sacred gift, my wife and I have tried to be intentional about  our sexuality and love-making as a spiritual practice:

One of the ways that we do this is by talking about sex and our sexuality regularly outside the bedroom. Sometimes we talk about the mixed messages we got about sex in our families, or the guilt, shame or confusion we have felt about our sexual awakening and desires. We acknowledge that we are sexually broken. Most, if not all of us have wounds, guilt or repression about our sexuality to navigate. Knowing that the journey to healthy sexuality is often a winding road from adolescence throughout adulthood, we try to be deeply vulnerable and realistic– while offering each other grace and understanding. We think that rather than seeing our sexuality solely in terms of moral successes or failures, we are asking, “What are our next steps towards healthy God-conscious sexuality?” We also talk about the nuts and bolts of what works for us in the bedroom–the words and touches that make the other person feel attractive, beloved and aroused. And though it is sometimes embarrassing for our kids, we talk with them about the loveliness of a sexual relationship and the sacredness of sex between people who are committed to one another. And we try to normalize and celebrate their awakening desires to experience union and intimacy with another human being.

As corny or unromantic as it might sound, we schedule our times for love-making. For us the days of spontaneous eruptions of sexual desire diminished quickly with the onset of full-time jobs, children, and the other the responsibilities of adulthood.  The truth is that at the end of a fulfilling day of meaningful work, family and community life, we feel pretty tired and often wish for a few moments alone. Like our weekly dates,  we schedule love-making as a way to make it a value and priority in our lives. Sex can be a measure of the whole quality of a marriage. Scheduling special time for love-making each week is a way for us to take the temperature of our relationship. There is a lot that has to happen before we get to the bedroom. We need to be reconciled with one another. We need to be conscious of our words and tenderness throughout the day so that the other feels safe and open to intimate touch. We need to be relaxed, centered  and de-stressed in order to be fully present to one another between the sheets. The practices of exercise, healthy eating, dressing and cleaning the body are all ways that we  affirm that we are God’s temple– sacred, attractive and worthy of care. And our bodies are sacred temples that we invite one another to enter. The teachings of Jesus and the Disciple John suggest that the love and care we give to one another is as close as we can get to loving the God we cannot see. The attentive gaze into one another’s eyes, the tender touch and gentle words are tangible practices in the mysterious ways of the kingdom of love.

Whether a person is married or single, we can explore ways to be God-conscious in our sexuality.  I know a devout single woman who practices what she calls, “Sexy time” — a space where she chooses intentional practices that help her feel feminine, beautiful and in touch with her body in ways that affirms dignity and a sense of being beloved.  I believe there is a way for each of us to invite God into the earthy realism and beauty of our sexuality– to walk with us in the complexity and power of being created as sexual beings.

Church Basement Roadshow

On Monday we hosted Doug Pagitt, Mark Scandrette and Tony Jones for a BBQ lunch. They are on tour promoting their books – Soul Graffiti, The New Christians and A Christianity Worth Believing and entertaining audiences with The Church Basement Roadshow

It was fun to catch up with old friends and make new ones. I have appropriated some of Mark’s material for the urban walk at our conferences (with acknowledgment of course) and have been challenged by the way that he and his wife live and work in community. Doug too is involved in Solomon’s Porch a community church in Minneapolis. Tony Jones is the national coordinator of Emergent Village. This was the first time we had met him. I am looking forward to reading his book.