Run With Purpose In Every Step

Celtic retreat 2012 Morning worship

Celtic retreat 2012 Morning worship

This morning I am preparing for our MSA staff retreat time this weekend. We will use the Quaker Discernment process and organic strategic planning to discern God’s future focus for our ministry. At core, our MSA team is a spiritual leadership community that discerns and implements the will of God for our organization. and these processes have become the keys to our development both as individuals and as an organization.

As we enter this retreat we know that we need to focus more acutely on what God is leading us into. We are in a time of growth and transition, grappling with issues of how to sustain our current ministry, launch CCSP Cascadia and build the Mustard Seed Village.  In this time constantly coming back to God to discern God’s will becomes more important than ever.

In preparation for this time I have looked back over previous discernment sessions to catch a sense of what God has said in the past and how well we have responded to those promptings. I have looked at our strengths and weaknesses, our successes and our failures, our joys and our challenges.

I have also looked back and been encouraged by what others have said about what MSA has meant in their lives. Most are drawn by the invitation to join a community that is journeying together towards God’s kingdom of peace, justice and abundance.  Shane Claiborne once told us that he thought we were great “cross pollinators” and others to have appreciated the connections we help them make to people and organizations they feel they can identify and hang with.

Others have told us that they appreciate our encouragement to reimagine life and faith and create new possibilities for how we live in every aspect of our life. Brian McLaren shared that through MSA he was given permission and encouragement to think new thoughts, dream new dreams and see the gospel in a fresh, new life-changing and world-changing light.

Others have appreciate the modelling of a simpler, more festive and hopefully more Christ centred way of life and our willingness to share openly the ongoing journey it involves us in, even when it reveals our warts and wrinkles. Added to this is an appreciation of the resources we develop to help move all of us in this direction.

So my question this morning is what draws you to this blog and the other aspects of MSA? What would you like to share that could help us focus the ministry of MSA? I would love to hear your thoughts and also appreciate your prayers for this weekend. 

 

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Discerning Together

Candles help us centre ourselves

Candles help us centre ourselves

The following post is part of a series on Leading Spiritually. Check out the other posts in this series:

The Art of Leading Spiritually – An Invitation to a Journey

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Why Are We Leading?

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Where Are We Heading?

The Art of Leading Spiritually – How Do We Do It?

Team Meetings as Discerning the Will God

I have shared the process that we use in the MSA team meetings and when we go on retreat, on previous occasions but have expanded it here to make it a more useable tool. You may also like to read Practicing Discernment Together by Lon Fendall, Jan Wood and Bruce Bishop which is a great book on the Quaker discernment process.

The amazing thing is that this process has not only drawn us closer to God and to each other but it has also made us more sensitive to the moving of God’s spirit in our lives and those of our colleagues at other times. And it has made us more creative as we listen to the diverse ideas and possibilities that God is unveiling through others.

  • Centering – (Recognizing the presence of God). It is always helpful to start with a centering prayer or activity that stills our minds and brings us into a place of attentiveness to God. Centering is an intentional way to gather the group and help us begin to leave behind our busy schedules and the demands on our time. We each arrive at a meeting with an entire world dragging behind us. For each of us, that world is unique. So taking time to make a conscious choice to set aside those demands and distractions is helpful. That’s what this opening exercise is all about. Here is a prayer that I wrote last year to help me with this process:

May the centre of all things be Christ

May the way of all things be Christ

May the truth of all things be Christ

Behind, before, within, without

May the life of all things be Christ

  • Other suggested centering exercises are: to light a candle as a representation of Christ’s presence; join hands in a moment of silence; sing a song; say the Lord’s prayer or another prayer and then sit in silence. I have also written several breathing prayers that we have found useful in this process.
  • Gathering silence before the meeting. Sitting in silence for a few minutes extends this time of stillness before God. This is a time for each of us to let go of our grip on ourselves and our desire for control over both the process and the decisions that come out of it. We each need to acknowledge that we know nothing and must trust in God for all that comes out of the meeting. In this place of stillness we remind ourselves that God is in a different dimension beyond cognitive knowing.
  • Relating – (Checking in with each other) Since business is now a practice of discerning God’s desires, our ability to be sensitive to the movement of the Spirit must be encouraged. This step a spiritual practice that enables us to reconnect with one another in a way that grounds us in the Holy Spirit, connecting us more deeply to the presence of God. This is an extremely important part of the process in which as we actively listen to each other share we become aware of who the Spirit of God is at work in our lives.

There are many ways to do this and we are finding that as we grow together as a community that we want to expand and deepen the ways that we listen to each other using this as a time to affirm and strengthen the work that God is doing to draw us into a more intimate relationship with himself.

Possibilities include:

  1. Prayer of Examen on your experience of God this last week: Consolations (those things that have given you a deep sense of life-giving connection to God, others & yourself) and Desolations (those things that have made you lose your connection to God)
  2. Sharing the transforming edge of God’s activity in your lives. Where are you most aware of God’s transforming work in your life? What would give God the greatest opportunity to continue that work? What is the greatest hinderance to what God is teaching you?
  3. How is it with your soul? This is a question we can only ask when we are in a long term trusting relationship with our discernment group. Sharing our sense of our own spiritual state places each of us in a very vulnerable position. The willingness to keep this confidential is an essential element in this depth of group sharing.
  4. Lectio Divina.  This is a very ancient contemplative prayer technique practiced at one time by all Christians and kept alive by the monastic tradition.  It draws us into the presence of God opening our hearts and our minds to the activity of the Holy Spirit in and around us.

A second step in relating is to anticipate the week that is coming. What are you looking forward to? What are you less excited about? This step increases our sensitivity to the issues colleagues are struggling with as well as the joys they are anticipating. All of these might influence our ability to be fully present to God, our colleagues and our work during the coming week.

  • Receiving, listening and reflecting. (Attending to God, listening) Once we have shared we take time to consider what God is saying in our midst through our personal situations. This step works from the assumption that God is busy in our midst. We spend time in silence listening to God looking for directions, threads and common themes considering how God is moving in our personal lives.  We then ask the questions: Given what we’ve heard and shared, what is God doing among us or calling us to? How is that related to our vision as a staff or board? What are the implications of what we have heard for our lives and ministry?

If your staff or board has some directional/identity questions before it, you could introduce them here, even if at this point you don’t answer them, but merely see how your sharing might relate to any of them.  “What is our calling as a staff or a board? What is God’s heart around our mission? What characteristics of God should we endeavor to represent to the world? Where are we experiencing energy but not doing anything about it? Where are we pushing forward and finding resistance?”

  • Prayer of thanks for God’s activity in our midst. It is good before moving into the business for the day to spend time savouring the preciousness of all that has been shared, resting in the contentment of knowing that our lives are in God’s hands and giving thanks for both the good and the bad. Then we pray for request that have surfaced during our sharing.
  • Responding (With this focus on God and God’s activity, we do the business at hand in a spirit of attentiveness) This is the point where we finally get to business.  Oh wait, we’ve been doing business all along! This is simply the point where we introduce specific items that need discussion or decision.  Once the foundation of feeling connected to one another and to God has been laid, then we can move forward with confidence into the tasks at hand…always keeping an eye on our attentiveness to the Spirit. If at any point we feel distracted from being rooted in Christ, we need to push ourselves back from the agenda, take a deep breath, recenter and reconnect.
  • Returning and closing(offering ourselves and our efforts to God) are the final steps.  Before rushing back out into the world, take a moment to prayerfully reflect over the course of the meeting. Ask yourselves where you felt close to God; where there seemed to be shifts in the discussion that opened you up to new ways of thinking; where there were blocks; where God seemed most present.  Celebrate your experience of doing the work of the Church in the presence of God by naming some of these times and being grateful together.  Allow your closing prayer to express your thanks and joy.

The Art of Leading Spiritually – How Do We Do It?

group hug

Leading together

The following post is part of a series on Leading Spiritually. Check out the other posts in this series:

The Art of Leading Spiritually – An Invitation to a Journey

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Why Are We Leading?

The Art of Leading Spiritually – Where Are We Heading?

How Are We Leading?

How do we become good leaders? Ruth Hayley Barton in her book Strengthening the Soul of a Leader affirms that a leadership team is at core a spiritual community gathered around the presence of Christ to discern and carry out God’s will for the community be that a church, a small group, or a ministry organization. She says:

Learning to come together and stay together in unity is our first and most enduring task as we pattern our relationships after Christ’s relationships with his disciples. “He loved his own to the end” (John 13:1; John 15 & 17). To compromise our community would be to compromise our essence and the we would not have much that is of value to offer to others. (p176)

What an incredibly powerful and challenging statement. The way to become a good leader is not to focus on our own spiritual growth or life skills but to enter into a journey with a community in which we all grow together into the people that God intends us to be. Obviously this does require strong commitment to growing our individual faith and seeing our individual lives transformed but it requires much more than that.

Ruth Barton goes on to share that a leadership community at its best is:

  • Finding ways to be open to the presence of Christ in our midst.
  • Attending to our relationships by listening to each other, caring for each other and praying for each other
  • Resting and retreating together not to move our business meetings to another location but so that we can pray together, listen to our journeys, eat together and enjoy each other.
  • Living within its limits. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses, knowing what God has called us to do and learning to say no to what is outside these limits is extremely important
  • Moving forward in in its work on the basis of discernment rather than human planning or strategic maneuvering. (p179 – 183).

These are all challenges that the MSA team has grappled with over the last few years as we have sort to become a community that discerns and carries out the will of God for both us as individuals and for Mustard Seed Associates as an organization. Some of that journey I have shared here on this blog as we have embraced the Quaker discernment process, learned the value of organic strategic planning organically and become more of an organization that Plans with Spiritual Formation at the Centre.

I must confess however that it is easy to allow my life and the life of the Mustard Seed team to stray from values. The busier we get, the less time we want to take for sharing ad caring. Busyness is not of the devil, busyness is the devil. As my husband Tom Sine commented in his book The New Conspirators this extremely high level of busyness results in God being marginalized in our lives and “Christians becoming even more vulnerable to adopting secular assumptions about how to live, which leads to more conformity to a culture of busyness, hurry, and overload. And then the cycle begins over again.”

Leading spiritually means slowing down in our individual and community lives. It means taking time for others and placing Christ at the centre.

How would it change your leadership style if these priorities were at the centre of your life and of the team you work with?  

Work in the Spirit – Becoming the Change our World Needs

As many of you know the MSA has spent the last two days in planning meetings working towards a three year strategic plan.  I wrote yesterday that one of our challenges has been that the usual strategic planning methods do not apply to an organization like ours.  As we have grappled with that I realize that the challenge is bigger than that.  Our real challenge is that the ways of God and the ways of the world are really meant to be very different when it comes to our work.

First our goals are meant to be different.  Whereas the bottom line for a secular business is its economic profitability, I believe that the bottom line for Christian ministries and businesses is how well do we model and enable others to grow into God’s kingdom ways.  In his helpful book Work in the Spirit, Miroslav Volf comments:

Human work properly understood theologically is related to the goal of all history, which will bring God, human beings and the nonhuman creation into ‘shalomic’ harmony.

Often our most effective work from God’s perspective brings no economic profit, in fact it may do the exact opposite as when we work for justice amongst the poor and the marginalized who are penniless.  And work in this context cannot be isolated from the rest of life.  We are recognizing this more and more in the ways we work here at MSA.  Our spiritual disciplines, our personal joys and struggles, our financial challenges and provisions, our health and physical fitness all impact the ways we work. So we need to take all of these into account as we discern together, plan and work towards God’s shalomic harmony.  Our work is a part of our lives that is meant to be interwoven through all else we are and do.

Second, our way of working is meant to be different.  In his book Whole Life Transformation, Keith Meyer talks about the fact that churches should have spiritual formation at the centre.  I believe Christian ministries and business should too.  I am more and more convinced that one of the important roles of a Christian leader is akin to that of a spiritual director.  Spiritual direction is a contemplative practice in which we help others look and listen for the mystery of God in all of life, and enable them to respond to that discovery in a growing relationship of freedom and commitment.

Even in the secular business world there is a growing recognition that effective leadership is not meant to be a hierarchical authoritarian position.  There is a growing understanding of leadership as a process in which we mobilize others around a shared vision and work together for societal and personal change in a way that meets people’s enduring needs.  From a Christian perspective, leaders are servants, those who encourage, nurture and enable others to become all that God intends them to be and in the process we often discover who God intends us to be as well.

This form of leadership frees Christian leaders from the need to know everything and be everything to their co workers.  It also hopefully frees us from feelings of superiority and prestige.  It frees us to recognize that we are merely part of a community in which God can speak through any and all members.  This also places tremendous responsibility on us as leaders to nurture and grow our own spiritual lives.  We cannot be effective Christian leaders if we do not have good spiritual disciplines, or if we are not open with others about our struggles and shortcomings.  We grow together as a community not as isolated individuals.

Keith Meyer encourages the development of a corporate rule of life in which together as a community we develop guidelines and practices that grow both their individual and corporate spiritual maturity.  Here at MSA the Quaker discernment process has enabled us to accomplish that.  It takes our focus away from us as the ones who accomplish the work to God.  It enables us to relax because we are more aware of the fact that God is in control.  Every success or failure becomes an opportunity to listen to God and learn from God.

It is not surprising therefore that we have become a very organic organization, more a community of like minded believers who God has brought together to accomplish common goals.  We truly are aware that in sharing our dreams together and listening to God together we are all empowered to co-create with God.  And it is my hope that as we do so others will be enabled to become co-creators with God too.

As a result we all left our planning meetings yesterday inspired, energized and excited about the future.  It was not anything I as the executive director of MSA said or did.  It was more the sense that in our place of planning we had been in the presence of God.  And as we listened to God speak through other members of the team, through the changes and challenges of our society and through the serendipitous encounters and activities that have come our way we became more aware that God is leading us together towards something that bears the fingerprints of God.

What has become clearer for us is that MSA is becoming a birthing centre that reflects something of God’s loving purposes for our world.  As we see our world changing at lightning speed, we want to use our imaginations, and encourage others to use theirs, to develop new ways to live, serve and celebrate into the future that God is bringing into being.

We can easily feel threatened by the changes occurring in our world, which usually results in insecurity, anger and violence.  Or we see these changes as a design opportunity to work together with our Creator God to bring glimpses of God’s shalom eternal world into existence.

Leadership as Spiritual Direction

This last week I was interviewed by a M Div student for her class on leadership.  I told her that for me leadership was not a position of privilege or of prestige but rather one of discernment and encouragement.  I said that to me the prime function of a Christian leader is to enable others to become all that God intends them to be.  I talked to her about our use of the Quaker discernment process and the group decision making structure we have set up to encourage cooperation and mutual support within our team.  She was excited by this concept and commented – This is leadership as spiritual direction.

I have thought a lot about this since we talked.  What is leadership meant to look like?  What was it that made Jesus leadership special?  Our modern concept of leadership, even of Christian leadership is a very hierarchical and very much based on position and prestige.  The concept of leadership as spiritual direction turns this on its head just as Jesus does when he talks about the servanthood nature of leadership.  It places the advancement of our team members ahead of our own “be thinking of others as better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3) and it makes us as leaders responsible for nurturing our team members in ways that nourishes their spiritual development as well as their physical accomplishments.  Jesus rarely told his followers how to do something he asked questions that enabled his disciples to find the answers that God had already placed within their hearts.

I talked some about this in a previous post “Planning with Spiritual Formation at the Centre” but I am realizing that this is a concept that it key to the way that we help followers of Jesus move into the future.  It is also a key to our being witnesses of mutuality and love to those around us.  I have already been told that I need to write a book on this but I suspect that is some way off in the future.

However I do have several questions for all of us out of this.

  1. How do we rethink our leadership models so that they are more like spiritual direction than hierarchical power structures
  2. How do we encourage community building and spiritual formation as part of our leadership models so that we see the transformation of all we work with
  3. Where are the resources to help this happen – I would love to hear from you on this and am looking for books and online resources that can help me further develop my thinking

 

Finding the Center – How Do we Balance Our Lives?

I just received an email from a friend with whom I was supposed to meet this morning.  Unfortunately she is so stressed out trying to maintain the balancing act of work, life and faith that she has had to cancel.  And she is feeling guilty not just because she is too busy but also because she cannot stand the pressure of the balancing act.

The compulsions all of us face to get busier and busier are enormous and our culture constantly impresses on us the fact that we should never slow down or take a break.  Multitasking is the order of the day and hundreds of gadgets appear every year to help us with the ever increasing complexity of the juggling act.

But is this really the way that we are meant to live and conduct our work?  What relationship does this type of life bear to the way of life in the kingdom of God? Perhaps you think that I harp on this too much, but I am concerned that this way of life is not sustainable for any of us, and it is certainly not drawing us closer to God and God’s kingdom ways.

Many of you know that a couple of years ago here at Mustard Seed Associates we started using the Quaker discernment method as a way to conduct our staff meetings.  It is a wonderful process that focuses on listening and learning from each other rather than on the assigning of tasks and the seeking after goals.  It encourages us to develop relationships and form community rather than see life as an assigning of tasks and an accomplishment of goals.  It also affirms the fact that God speaks through all people and that every voice needs to be listened to and taken notice of.

To be honest we drifted away from this approach for a while last year, but with the encouragement of our Quaker pastor friend Stan Thornburg, we have returned to its use this year with amazing results.  If you are unfamiliar with this process you may like to read the 2 posts I wrote when we started using this approach

Quaker Discernment

More About Quaker discernment

The sense of community and mutual respect this process engenders in us is phenomenal.  Part of what I have discovered is that it slows me down and encourages me to listen to those around me – not just in the midst of our meetings but at all times.  And believe it or not I think that as a result I actually accomplish more – more of what matters from a kingdom perspective that is.

Life is about relationships but our culture has converted it into a series of tasks and goals.  To move into a different way of thinking and operating we need new tools and processes that affirm God’s new life that wants to blossom and grow within us.

Let me finish with a centering prayer that I wrote over the weekend and have been using this week to help me focus and discern in the midst of all that is happening in my life and at MSA

May the centre of all things be Christ

May the way of all things be Christ

May the truth of all things be Christ

Behind, before, within, without

May the life of all things be Christ

Companions on the Journey

This morning’s post Companions on the Journey, comes from Stan Thornburg, Quaker pastor at a small in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon. He really loves ideas is spiritually and intellectually hungry at all times. He finds his grounding in contemplative spiritual practices and in trusting the community.  He blogs at Born to Eat Toast He has been a tremendous help to us in MSA walking us through the Quaker discernment process that has become such an important part of the way we conduct business.

We’re heading to Jerusalem. We do it every year. You’d think we would learn. We know what awaits us, i.e. betrayal and crucifixion, death and darkness, suffering of all kinds. Even so, we choose this journey with joy and passion, with deep gratitude and awe, with a profound sense of mystery that surpasses our ability to understand, and an awareness of that great sacrifice – that firestorm of unimaginable love – that works our redemption and brings us face to face with the terrible holiness of the divine.

Easter mornings we rush to the grave and again and again stare in wonder at the empty tomb. We stand, mouths agape at this feat of supernatural strength, fueled by unconditional love, accomplishing what all the sacrifices, piety, prayers, and incense could not even broach. Our heads want to burst as we try to piece it together into some coherent message. Our hearts in turn want to burst as we try to entertain even the smallest notion of the love we have just encountered. We stand helpless before it, we are unwitting victims of it, we can neither direct it nor control it though we try every theological parlor trick available to do so. Exhausted, we finally just let it go and allow it to be what it is…”For God so loved THE WORLD…”

“Oh God!” “Thank you for this awful and wonderful self-revelation.”

We are not alone on this journey. We are accompanied by hundreds of thousands of believers from every corner of the globe. We are not just sojourners we are brothers and sisters joined in solidarity for this great celebration. There is no distinction. There is no room for labels, for doctrinal snobbery, for claims of exclusivity. There is only room for gratitude for one another and joy at being part of such a great throng. We are marching to the Holy Mountain where God resides and Christ reigns. Our hearts long for justice, for peace, for healing, for a glimpse of

God’s unconditional love lived out among us.

Is this the vision of which Isaiah wrote?

“In the last days

the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established

as chief among the mountains;

it will be raised above the hills,

and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of the God of Jacob.

He will teach us his ways,

so that we may walk in his paths.”

The law will go out from Zion,

the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He will judge between the nations

and will settle disputes for many peoples.

They will beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not take up sword against nation,

nor will they train for war anymore.

Everyone is invited on this journey! It belongs to no one faith or sect. We will weather the betrayal, suffering, and sacrifice together. Come, join the throngs across our globe on this wonderful, terrible, trek. We will stand stunned into silence before the tomb. We will go crazy with celebration when death’s door makes way for resurrection power.

We will be forever changed.

What Will The Future Hold?

Summer is drawing to a close, and it seems to me that the end of the year is moving towards us at a very rapid clip.  The MSA team has begun a series of discernment sessions to try and shape at least some of what we focus on over the next couple of years.  As we have gotten back into this process which we began using about 18 months ago I realize how much I have missed them over the summer.

This is a group discernment process developed and used by Quakers for running not just church but also business meetings.  It works from the premise that God speaks to and through everyone and provides an environment in which we can listen to the ways in which God is speaking to us and discern our direction together.

We live in a world with much uncertainty, one in which we all feel buffeted by change beyond our control.  Often we wonder where and whether God is really in the midst of what is happening.  I find that using this process really helps us to discern where God is and how God wants to lead us.  So many of our strategic planning and futuring techniques stem from our belief t – spoken or unspoken – that the future will be more of the present only bigger, better and more prosperous.  The last year has dispelled that illusion but many of us still want to go back to the old ways of doing things.

I mentioned in the recent MSA yearly report that using this process has stimulated our creativity.  It makes life a little messier than a well ordered strategic planning approach but is exciting to watch God take control and shape what we do.  It is also exciting to see each person involved in this process grow and blossom as they are given the opportunity to voice their opinions and their sense of God’s leading.  None of us really know what the future will hold but I am more convinced than ever that this is the type of process that provides the flexibility we need to lead us into our rapidly changing future while maintaining a sense of the fact that God is indeed still in control.

You can read more about the process we initiated last year at these posts

Quaker Discernment

More About Discernment

More on Quaker Discernment

I had just finished the draft for this article when I came across this post

The Problem with Non that seemed so appropriate in relation to what I had just written that I thought I would add it as a reference for reflection.  I think that part of the reason non profits find change difficult is that they develop structures and ways of thinking that build rigidity and inflexibility and really do not allow for change at any level.  What do you think?

Discerning the Winter Blues

Greenlake in winter

Greenlake in winter

Yesterday we held another of our Mustard Seed team discernment sessions.  Last week we got rather bogged down as we tried to define more clearly what we wanted to accomplish this next year so I was not really looking forward to this session.  Just to jog your memory we have been using the Quaker group discernment process which begins with a time of silence and centering and then a time of personal sharing about what we are looking forward to in the week ahead and what we are not looking forward to.  Then we look back and share the high and low points of our previous week,  That is followed by another time of silence to discern what God is saying.

seattle-skyline-3

Seattle skyine in winter

As we reflected on what each person had shared we realized that last week the grey skies of Seattle were getting to all of us.  To some extent all of us were struggling with the winter blues and it had obviously effected dramatically the way we interacted last week – I am not going to call this Seasonal Affective Disorder because I do think that to a certain extent what we were all struggling with is the natural rhythm of our bodies telling us that it is time to slow down and take a rest.  We live in a world in which we no longer take notice of the shortening days except to complain about our growing electric bills.  We simply turn on the lights and stay up as late as we do in the summer.

As we talked we realized that maybe God was saying something to us here – not just as individuals but as an organization.  Maybe, we reflected, we need to take notice of our bodies and build a slow down time into our winter schedules.  In nature the winter is a time when on the surface there seems to be no activity, but beneath the ground roots are growing deep and strong.  In fact shrubs planted in the Fall send down deeper roots than those planted in the spring and so are more resistant to drought.  Maybe we too are more resistant to spiritual droughts if we take time to slow down and reflect over the winter, allowing our roots to go down deep.  One thing we talked about was planning a team retreat during this season so that we can reflect in a more relaxed atmosphere on what God is saying to us.

I was reminded that I once read that the tradition of Advent wreaths actually began because farmers took the wheels of their wagons during the wet winter months and this became the framework for the Advent wreath.  Now I am not sure that any of us would consider taking the wheels off our cars over the winter but I do think that we need to build times of rest, reflection and renewal into our schedules.  Maybe we should stop driving our cars at least for a few days so that we can relax and refresh.  We are not meant to continually live in harvest season.  We are not meant to be continually producing fruit or even be continually blossoming.  In fact plants that are forced into bloom at the wrong season by florists never recover their natural rhythm.  Most of them will never blossom again.

What do you think.  Are there ways in which we need to take more notice of our bodies?  Are there ways that we should be more in synch with God’s natural rhythms not jsut in our personal lives but in our work lives as well?

More on Quaker Discernment.

We held our first discernment meeting Tuesday with our MSA team. It was an exciting time which we felt drew us both closer to each other and also closer to God. We were particularly encouraged by the fact that this process gave everyone in the MSA team a sense of ownership and drew us together as a team that is focused on Christ rather than on our own agendas. We see it as an opportunity to mentor each other and to integrate our spiritual practices with our work. Our greatest struggle was a concern that this would slow us down and make it harder to accomplish concrete goals. We were also concerned at the extent to which outside pressures distract us from God’s purposes. To be honest as I reflected on this I realized that we are probably not wasting time at all – in the long run we are probably saving time. The more time we spend focusing on God and God’s agenda the more effectively we will be at doing things that have eternal value.

Here is a summary of the process we used. It was developed by Bruce Bishop – one of the authors of Practicing Discernment Together.

Centering

(Recognizing the presence of God)

Gathering silence before the meal/meeting

Relating

(Checking in with each other)

Briefly checking-in: Something we are looking forward to this week, something we’re not so excited about

Receiving

(Attending to God, listening)

Prayer of Examen on your experience of God this last week: Consolations and Desolations

Ruminating

(Considering the fruits of the prayer, looking for direction and threads)

Listening to one another, considering how God is moving in our personal lives

Reflecting

(Given what we’ve heard and shared, what is God doing among us or calling us to?)

Noticings and reflections and implications of where God is active

Responding

(With this focus on God and God’s activity, we do the business at hand)

Looking at our business agenda in this spirit of attentiveness

*Business*

including recentering as needed to keep ourselves attentive

Returning and Closing

(offering ourselves and our efforts to God)

Noticing God-movements and shifts during the meeting

Reflecting on where God seemed to be active

Prayer