Spiritual Formation Retreat – Day 4

Thursday began with morning prayers as usual. Colleen led us through an almost Lectio Divina exercise on the Prayer of St. Patrick. It was quite profound to meditate on the words…"I arise today in God’s mighty strength, in the power of the three-ness". A real sense of God’s presence was felt as we took time to embrace and enter the Kingdom.

The day was spent with Steve Imbach from Soul Stream. Steve is a Spiritual Director and he led us through some teaching on Spiritual Direction and how it can help us learn to pay attention to how God is working in our lives. One of the requirements this year is for each of us to see a Spiritual Director once a month, so what we experienced was an introduction to what we can expect.

One of the questions I have about Spiritual Direction pertains to its role in the church. I think it is an important question and one that needs discussion. There is an argument that impartiality and an unbiased perspective is critical to the direction relationship, as well as the intentionality of the relationship that stems beyond the confines of a friendship. So this seems to support and "outside of church SD relationship". However, I am inclined to wonder at what the possibilities of this function are in the local Church context. I guess it depends on the charisma of the community and if the gift of SD is available. I could see it being the role of an elder or group of elders that are committed to the spiritual care of the congregation. Perhaps if there was a commitment to training in SD and if that was emphasized in the church, this could come to fruition. I say this because, form what I’ve learned this week, there is a specific skill set involved. I know many have sought SD outside the church and I am inclined to wonder at how much of that is cultural and stems from a low view of ecclesiology? I am curious to hear your thoughts.

After Lunch Steve Imbach and Kathy Bentall (another SD) had a meeting in view of the group. It was helpful to see the line of questioning and how she listened in awareness to what the Spirit was saying through Steve’s sharing.

After dinner Tim, Jake and I went for a walk around Killarney lake and took in the sights of creation. It was a good day, we had evening prayers and then sat up and chatted into the night, contemplating if this was the last night that we would be at Rivendell together, or if the Lord would bring us back sometime.

What are your thoughts about Spiritual Direction and the Church?

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Words that Create

Yesterday was a busy day.  It was the second week of the preaching rotation for me and I had to got to deliver the same message I did last week about the importance of living in God’s story. Sacred Reading of scripture is the avenue I used to get us into the story. By the end of the third service, I was exhausted.   

One of the elements to sacred reading is praying the scriptures. I was hung up on the importance of praying scripture as a means to speak God’s truth into existence in our lives.  Prayer – the words spoken with conviction from the values that reside in our hearts – can create new possibilities of faithfulness in the day to day.  They can lead us closer to the realization of God’s dream for the world and they allow us to contribute.  Almost providentially, I stumbled upon these words of Henri Nouwen yesterday morning as I was revisiting my message…

"Words, words, words. Our society is full of words: on billboards, on television screens, in newspapers and books. Words whispered, shouted, and sung. Words that move, dance, and change in size and color. Words that say, "Taste me, smell me, eat me, drink me, sleep with me," but most of all, "buy me." With so many words around us, we quickly say: "Well, they’re just words." Thus, words have lost much of their power.
Still, the word has the power to create. When God speaks, God creates. When God says, "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3), light is. God speaks light. For God, speaking and creating are the same. It is this creative power of the word we need to reclaim. What we say is very important. When we say, "I love you," and say it from the heart, we can give another person new life, new hope, new courage. When we say, "I hate you," we can destroy another person. Let’s watch our words."

~Henri Nouwen

I came to realize that in many ways prayer is creative.  And the words we utter prayerfully and with conviction can contribute to the bringing forth of new realities.  In the context of Christian prayer, it is God’s reality; His Kingdom, that we long to realize, almost echoing God’s creativity via his spoken word.

My question: Do we consider prayer in this way, or has prayer become but functional babble that makes little difference in our lives?

A Day of Preaching…

I had the privilege of preaching – maybe a better word is teaching – at two of our five congregations today. As a church we are going through Kenneth Boa’s book, Conformed to His Image, and this week’s talk was based on the material in Chapter 15 on Sacred reading. It was fun and I feel I got the opportunity to inspire people toward new possibilities of daily faithfulness though the ancient practice of Sacred Reading (Lectio Divina). I talked around the importance of treasuring God’s word, meditation on God’s word, praying God’s word and sitting in God’s presence silently. In addition, I focused on the importance of living in the story and how sacred reading can fund possibilities for the Kingdom today. I get to speak the same message two more times next sunday…I can’t wait.

Later in the afternoon, I hung out with my old friend Terry at his place as the wife and kids were at a baby shower. He caught me up on his year long adventure in Ireland. Terry is one of those guys who has a vision for mission and such an encouragement to be around. He was gone for a year and has come back charged and even more excited (as if that was possible for him) about kingdom possibilities in his neighbourhood. It was a fun conversation and a much needed one…I’ll get him blogging soon.

Wasn’t today the Super Bowl?

Who won?

Who cares?

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Sacred Reading and Creative Word

Let the word of God speak, be still, let the Word wash over your soul,

Let it fill your mind, fill your will,

Like rain filling the fields, in the cold Autumn chill

Will you prepare your soul to meet the King?

Or will you rush through the story overlooking important things,

While thinking of the possessions that steal your affection

Steal your heart and mind, wasting them on temporal things?

Slowly tune your ear…

Like an expert listener, waiting for the voice that can set you off

In a direction of life, not lost without meaning, but gleaning from the love

That loves, as much as love can,

Do you hear the invitation?

What is the word saying? …“Come, enter into the story?

Can you smell the stench of sickness in the dry air?

As the master heals the man and says “follow me, be free from despair”

Free from the stories that make you less than human; that make your whole life ache like the pain that comes from the yoke you weren’t meant to bear, weren’t meant to take.

Allow the word to pull you in, to form you from within your depths.

To shape your affections toward hope in the one who saves, redeems and loves,

Like no other can love in this life,

Will you receive the invitation, the invitation to be made new?

Like beautiful spring flowers coming up in bloom

Like a precious pearl that you stumbled upon while walking along a trail

Receive the gift of God, the gift that woos you from hell…oh, will you…?

Bury your life in these words, like you would bury priceless treasure in your own back yard…

Like you would bury tomato seeds in a dirt bed freshly plowed

Let this story give you meaning,

Let it take you places where you can live out healing

A life where the word covers your whole being,

Like the snow covers everything when it snows…are you dreaming…yet?

Dreaming of the possibilities yet unseen,

Perhaps a step closer to the colorful Patmos dream…you know the one, the dream of a new creation…the one John tells us about in the book of revelation.

Come and see…calls the word to us, come and see the beauty and use your imagination to envision new life beside the tree who’s leaves are for the healing of the nations….

Let the word of God speak, be still, let the words wash over your soul,

Let them fill your mind, fill your will,

Like rain filling the fields, in the cold Autumn chill

Will you listen to the word? Will you be still?

Let it place you at the feet of Jesus as he taught on the ‘sermon’ hill?

Will you come to live, will you come and hear,

Let the word of God speak, let it draw you near…

Will you let the Word speak?

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Lectio Divina

Bible_with_glasses_1 Last night I had the joy of partaking in Lectio Divina with the small group that meets once a month as part of the Spiritual Formation intensive we are in through Carey Theological College.  The scripture for yesterday’s reading came out of the daily lectionary and I thought it worthwhile to post my meditation on the text.

Reading from Isaiah 1:10-20

  10 Hear the word of the LORD,
       you rulers of Sodom;
       listen to the law of our God,
       you people of Gomorrah!
11 "The multitude of your sacrifices—
       what are they to me?" says the LORD.
       "I have more than enough of burnt offerings,
       of rams and the fat of fattened animals;
       I have no pleasure
       in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to appear before me,
       who has asked this of you,
       this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
       Your incense is detestable to me.
       New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
       I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
       my soul hates.
       They have become a burden to me;
       I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
       I will hide my eyes from you;
       even if you offer many prayers,
       I will not listen.
       Your hands are full of blood;
16 wash and make yourselves clean.
       Take your evil deeds
       out of my sight!
       Stop doing wrong,
17 learn to do right!
       Seek justice,
       encourage the oppressed. [a]
       Defend the cause of the fatherless,
       plead the case of the widow.
18 "Come now, let us reason together,"
       says the LORD.
       "Though your sins are like scarlet,
       they shall be as white as snow;
       though they are red as crimson,
       they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
       you will eat the best from the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
       you will be devoured by the sword."
       For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

First & Second Reading – A key phrase that stood out was a portion of verse 17. “Seek justice.”  Reflecting on this verse brought me to consider the way I worship from a different perspective; a perspective that sees worship as Justice and action, not only the prayer and song that I commonly equate to worship.

Third Reading – “Do you love your neighbour?” was the question I heard coming up out of the text.  The question reveled how important it is to God for us to love our neighbour.  Loving neighbour as right worship caused me to think more about the ‘offerings’ I currently bring and if they are indeed pleasing to God and in line with how God sees worship in the broader sense. 

Fourth Reading – During this reading I was listening to God’s invitation for me.  The second part of John 10:10 came to mind. “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  This invitation was a call to live a faith that reaches further than private piety and into public justice and action.  The challenging part of this question is that it is calling me to embrace a vision for this world that draws me out of my comfort zone and into seeing the world through God’s eyes. It’s a call to help address the issues of poverty, injustice, and oppression that I am confronted with daily and to see those I often pass by as human and precious in God’s sight.

Lord, give me the courage to break forth into a life that is lived out of love for others, a life you promise is full, abundant and teeming with joy.  May your Spirit guide me into a daily death and willingness to carry the cross that leads to your glory. That your most cherished ones can find relief from their struggles, experience your love, and share in the resurrection and life to come.