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Kingdom Practice: Practicing the Presence of God

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Introduction.

This week, we are practicing the presence of God.  As we learned last night, the life of an active contemplative or a contemplative activist is a life of practicing the presence of God in every moment of living. It is a life of constant remembering and acting – remembering who we are and who God is; remembering how far God has brought us by his mercy and grace; and acting without delay in response to God’s promptings and leadings in utter reliance on his faithfulness. It is a life that is not compartmentalized into work life, home life, social life, and spiritual life. It is a fully integrated life in which we see Christ between all things, in all things, around all things, in every pair of eyes, in every circumstance, and in guiding every single step.

Practicing the Presence of God
Practicing the presence of God is a way of living.  Here is a place to begin…

Remembering.  Reflect on your story.  Was there a time in your life when you were “foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures?”  (Titus 3:3)  Was there a moment or a season, or both, when you see that God saved you “through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit?”  (Titus 3:5)

—–

Acting.  Reflect on a time God called you to act in a way that was far beyond your capabilities.  How did you respond?  Is God calling you now, in this season, to act in your weakness and in reliance on his grace?  What is the first step you can take in faith to respond, believing that his grace is sufficient and his power is made perfect in your weakness?  (2 Corin 12:9)

—–

Living.  What does your life look like when every moment is lived in the presence of God?  Consider the ordinary moments of your day and Christ’s sovereignty in them.  All things have been created through Christ and for Christ.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  (Col 1:15-17)  How can you live in this truth?  Practice the breath prayer we talked about last night.  As you walk through your day, each time you think of it, use the rhythm of your breath to breathe in these words: “Christ in me.”  Then, as you breathe out, pray: “The hope of glory.”  (Col 1:27)

—–

Examen.  At some point in your day, set aside 15 minutes to look back at the last 24 hours.  Invite the Holy Spirit’s guidance, review the day in thanksgiving, review the feelings that surface, choose one or two feelings and pray from them, and look forward to your next 24 hours.

Download Kellye’s Message here.

Additional Resources

Books:  The Practice of the Presence of God, by Brother Lawrence.

Contemplation in Action, Richard Rohr and Friends.

Video: Eternal Living?  Dallas Willard.

Kingdom Practice: Prayer of Examen

By | Kingdom Practices | 5 Comments

Introduction.  This week we are practicing the prayer of examen.  “Examen” means an examination of the conscience and was first written about as a spiritual practice by Ignatius of Loyola.  The prayer of examen, as Father Michael Sparough taught us, is asking God to reveal to us the truth of our lives and then guide us in his grace to move forward.

Prayer of Examen

Find 15 minutes in your day and review the last 24 hours using the prayer of examen.  Here is one way to engage in the practice:

Invite the Holy Spirit’s guidance.  Position your body in a posture of attentiveness, but not rigidity – feet flat on the floor, sitting up straight so you can breathe freely.  Take three deep breaths, breathing in God’s blessing and breathing out all that is not of God (your fear, your anxiety, your anger).  Pray this simple prayer, “In your grace, Lord, I want to see the truth of my life through your eyes.  Please reveal it to me.”  Breathe in God’s blessing and breathe out all that is not of God.

—–

Review the day with thanksgiving.  Once you have invited the Holy Spirit’s guidance, name the blessings for which you are thankful in the last 24 hours.  As you do this, remember, this is not a time to “count your blessings,” but rather a time to savor your blessings.  As you savor your blessings, picture Jesus before you, smiling and delighting in you.

—–

Review the feelings that surface.  Now ask yourself what feelings surfaced throughout the last 24 hours.  Did you feel frustrated?  Ashamed?  Disappointed?  Excited?  Joyful?  Pained?   Name the negative and positive feelings.

—–

Choose one or two feelings and pray from it.  Choose a negative feeling and a positive feeling and simply talk to God about those feelings.  Then listen to him.  As you do this, go ahead and let God surprise you.   Behold Jesus beholding you as you present your feelings to him.

—–

Look forward to tomorrow.  Now, look forward.  Tomorrow is a new day and God’s mercies are new each morning.  Ask yourself what you learned today in your prayer of examen and then end your time by asking God for the grace you need to move forward tomorrow.

 

Additional Resources

Books:  A Simple, Life Changing Prayer: Discovering the Power of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen, by Jim Manney.

Spiritual Exercises, by St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Article: Rummaging for God, Praying Backwards Through Your Day, by Dennis Hamm, SJ.

Audio: Pray as you go, Examen.

 

Kingdom Practice: Everyday Peacemakers

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Introduction.  This week we are practicing peacemaking.  Jon Huckins, our guest speaker, and co-founder of the Global Immersion Project, defined peacemaking as the restoration of harmony between us and God, us and ourselves, us and each other, and us and creation.  Using the story of the Good Samaritan, Jon taught us the following practices to equip us for peacemaking in our world:

See.  Pay attention to the humanity and plight of those we encounter and learn to see every person as an image-bearer of God.

—–

Immerse.  Move toward the center of the plight or conflict in order to seek to understand and find healing.

—–

Contend.  Engage in the plight or conflict with transforming initiatives (creative ways that allow the other to flourish).

—–

Restore.  Join God in His work to holistically repair all relationships.

Peacemaking. This week, let’s engage in peacemaking through action and contemplation…

—–

<<Action>>

Practice one or more of the following practices Jon suggested in his teaching.

(1) See.  Walk around your neighborhood with your phone or camera and take pictures of the things you see that are beautiful and the things you see that are broken.

(2) Immerse.

  • Move toward the person you typically try to avoid because they are difficult or annoying and engage them in conversation or have a meal with them.
  • Identify a broken relationship in your life and identify the first step to immersing yourself in the conflict.

(3) Contend.

  • With a few friends, identify an area of brokenness in the world and together, pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you in how you might contend for the flourishing of that issue, and then take a first step.
  • Identify a broken relationship in your life and take the first step to contend for the flourishing of that relationship.

—–

<<Contemplation>>

In your quiet time with God, practice Lectio Divina through the story of the Good Samaritan.  Here is one way to engage through the passages listed in the Daily Scripture Reading section below.

Read. Read the passage once slowly.
Listen. Sit silently for a minute, paying attention to the words or phrases that stand out.

Read. Read the passage a second time slowly.
Listen. Prayerfully ask God in what way those words and phrases apply in your life.  Sit in silence and listen for 1-2 minutes.

Read. Read the passage a third time, again slowly.
Listen. Prayerfully ask God whether there is an action or invitation for you.  Sit in silence and listen for two minutes without trying to figure anything out.  Just listen.

—–

Daily Scripture Reading

Monday: Luke 10:25-28
Tuesday: Luke 10:27-29
Wednesday:  Luke 10:30-32
Thursday: Luke 10:33-35
Friday: Luke 10:36-37
Saturday: Luke 10:25-37

—–

Additional Resources

Book:  Jon Huckins, Thin Places: Six Postures for Creating and Practicing Missional Community.

Video:  http://vimeo.com/9227554  

Article: Jon Huckins, Fatalities of Prejudice

 

Four Weeks of Action and Contemplation

By | Upcoming | 4 Comments

For the next four weeks, we will immerse ourselves in practices that help us become people of action and contemplation.  Most of us lean to one side or the other, right? We are naturally activistic (and often exhausted) or naturally reflective (and often self-oriented). But must we be either/or?

It’s no surprise that Jesus lived and invited us into a third way: To be prayerful activists. Engaged mystics. Grounded zealots. A community of humble courage, learning how to tangibly love God and everyone else.

Please join us as we practice, learn, stumble, and practice some more. We are not content to remain weary activists or isolated contemplatives, but we long to follow Jesus into the deeper streams of Both.  May His unforced rhythm of Grace lead us in every way.

And we’ll get to join up with a few friends…

threespeakers

On April 27th, my friend Jon Huckins will present a theology of peacemaking that teaches “Peacemaking is the mission of God and is the vocation of God’s people. It’s central to what it means to be a follower of Jesus.” And as we follow this theme throughout the scriptures and Story of God, Jon will offer four practices that can help us become peacemakers in our everyday lives.

On May 4th, I’m thrilled to partner with Father Michael Sparough, my spiritual director. From his Jesuit training – deeply grounded in both action and contemplation – Fr Michael will guide us through the practice that anchors his life and faith: the prayer of Examen. This is a prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern His direction for us.

On May 11th, our own Kellye Fabian will tell the beautifully tumultuous story of how God lead her – through grace and pain – to become a contemplative activist. Few people live the both/and as deeply as Kellye. And she will guide us through a number of stories and practices that help us all find ourselves on the continuum and live in the holy balance.

On May 18th, we will look back and begin to discern how God is calling us into lives of contemplation and action – both individually and as a tribe. This will be a night of reflection, story-telling, and much celebration!

The story of our first six weeks

By | Reflections | 2 Comments

Communion Table

Well it has been six weeks gathering together as a Practice tribe. What a start to this holy experiment. All week I’ve found myself looking back and thinking through the journey and would love to share a few reflections. Here’s how I’d tell the story…

We began with our shared desire:  We long to be a tribe who doesn’t just believe things about Jesus, but is willing to rearrange our lives to put his words into practice. In order for this to be true, we believe three things must be present at the end of our 18 month experiment: Vision, Practice, and Tribe.

[highlight color=”lightgrey”](1) Vision. We must begin with a ravishing view of the Kingdom of God. What did Jesus teach and invite us into? What does it look like for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven? We need to start with the Big Story.
(2) Practice. What are practical, concrete actions that help me align with God’s Kingdom among us?  What are the disciplines and habits that I can choose to put me in the flow of Grace…so that God can do in me what I could never do otherwise?
(3) Tribe. We can’t do this alone. We need to walk and practice together.[/highlight]

We’ve always known that a weekly service couldn’t accomplish this on it’s own. A two-hour gathering is only 1.2% of our time and can’t compete with how we spend the rest of the week. But a service “in service” of a community practicing the way of Jesus could be quite powerful. So with this in mind, our Sunday night gathering has become very important to this journey.

Meeting most Sunday nights, 7-9pm, we have tried to turn the Willow chapel into a holy living room.  Simple, reverent, and human.  We set up the chairs in the round because we desire to become a community, and placed the Eucharist table in the very center of the room because Christ is the very center of everything. It’s simple, of course, but hopefully the space preached louder than any words.

The vibe of the gathering was similarly understated and simple. We tried to do the minimal amount of programming required to create the most amount of Holy Space, and have been continuously amazed by how God met us in it.

Sequence 08

Week 1: The Invitation. On the first night, after an opening liturgy and a little bit of my story, Mindy guided us through a lectio divina engagement with our central text…

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me
and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything 
heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me
and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

It was profoundly moving to hear God speak to us through this powerful text…even in our first gathering.  And in many ways, this invitation from Jesus set the trajectory for our whole journey.  O please, Jesus Christ, teach us Your unforced rhythms of Grace.  (Week one practice)

Week 2: The Kingdom of God.  To learn these rhythms of Grace, we began with Jesus’ central message: “The Kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the good news!” But what does this mean? My friend Doug Pagitt brought a compelling and provocative perspective that raised more questions than it answered, and launched us into a week of wrestling, searching, and finding. We learned that God’s Kingdom is most often found in the daily interaction with “normal” life. O God, please give us eyes to see Your Kingdom everywhere. (Week 2 practice)

Week 3: Spiritual Formation.  Beginning to see God’s Kingdom all around us, we then asked: How do we become people who can join this Kingdom with our hands and feet? How do we become transformed into Christlikeness? Mindy brilliantly taught about this process and gave us the practice of the open chair. So much of The Practice is built on this teaching: Transformation is only possible through God’s Grace, and yet we have a critical role to play. O God of the Universe, please show us the small things we can do to align with Your immense power. (Week 3 practice)

Week 4: Forgiveness. For our fourth week, we said, “Alright, let’s bring it all together. Let’s dive into one of Jesus’ deep teachings about the Kingdom and see if, by Grace, we can begin to put his words into practice”. Since nearly 2/3 of Jesus’ teachings were directly or indirectly about forgiveness, we prayerfully entered into the difficult “parable of the unmerciful servant” from Matthew 18 and asked God to help us forgive from our hearts. This was so hard. Those seven days of practice were heavy, beautiful, difficult, and a taste of freedom for many of us…even as we know the journey will be long. Loving God, please forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. (Notes and Week 4 practice)

Week 5: Serving. With Jesus’ teaching “those who have been forgiven much, love much” still in our ears, we looked at Luke 4:16-21 where Jesus launched his ministry by reading: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoner and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Isaiah 61)” To join Jesus and align with God’s Kingdom is to do the things He’s already doing: bringing good news to the poor, sight to the blind, etc… and so we humbly said YES!  Together, our little tribe spent the rest of the night packing seeds for families in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and El Salvador. O God, please make us instruments of Your peace. (Week 5 practice)

Week 6: Gratitude and Longing. The final week was probably my favorite gathering of them all. After an opening liturgy focused on the original Palm Sunday, we had a bit of a “holy family meeting” focused on two questions: First: Where are you experiencing the unforced rhythms of Grace in your life? We spent time in silent reflection, small group conversation, and then shared our stories of gratitude…all shouting “Thanks be to God!”  Second: Where are you NOT experiencing this Grace, and deeply long for more? After honestly bringing these longings to God in solitude and groups, many courageously shared with the community, and we all joined them in solidarity with “Lord, have mercy.”  Finally, we brought our hearts of gratitude and longing to the communion table and reaffirmed that Christ is the Center of it all. Almighty God, please help us align our entire lives to Your Kingdom and learn to live the unforced rhythms of Grace. Thank You for the greatest invitation in history. We gladly say yes! Amen. (Week 6 practice)

There is so much more to say…but this is already a novel of a blog post. However, we’re excited to share more stories, questions, and reflections very soon.

We’re starting the next journey together this Sunday, April 27th.  Please join us!

It’s an honor and joy to be on this adventure with you all. Grace and peace…
Aaron

Kingdom Practice: Practicing the Practices

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Introduction

We have been practicing as a community for six weeks now and have learned several different practices. This week, we would like to review the practices we have learned so far and suggest one way to practice them as an ongoing rhythm of life as followers of Jesus.

Recap of Kingdom Practices by Week

Week 1

In week 1, we practiced Lectio Divina, which is an ancient practice that stems from the belief that Scripture is alive and active (Heb 4:12) and seeks to help us listen for what God’s word is saying to us in the present moment through the Holy Spirit. A typical way to practice Lectio is to use the Read, Listen, and Repeat method.

Week 2

In week 2, we practiced Noticing. Jesus taught us to seek the kingdom of God, but the first step in doing so, is noticing the kingdom. So often, we believe the kingdom is somewhere else, but it is, as Jesus taught in his kingdom parables, in our very ordinary moments, daily routines, and day-to-day relationships. One way to practice Noticing is to ask God for eyes to see, believe that the kingdom is all around you, and then be attentive to the moments in your day that its presence is manifest, writing down where you noticed the kingdom.

Week 3

In week 3, we practiced The Open Chair, a way of understanding the process of spiritual transformation by arranging two chairs, one for us and one for God. Between these chairs is our soul, a thing to be restored to Christlikeness and wholeness when we bring our brokenness and openness and God brings his grace, power, and forgiveness. One way to practice The Open Chair is to arrange the chair as a tangible reminder of God’s role in your transformation, sit quietly and listen for what God is speaking to you, and read Scripture verses that remind you of God’s promises to restore and transform you.

Week 4

In week 4, we practiced Forgiveness, which is at the heart of the kingdom of God and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Forgiveness, however, is a difficult and messy practice that happens in stages. One way to practice forgiveness is to first feel the pain of being hurt by acknowledging it. Then, stop fighting or attacking the person who hurt you, laying down your right to revenge. Third, pray for the one who hurt you and ask God to bless him/her in their life. Finally, as Jesus demonstrated how to love and forgive in John 21, bless or serve the person who hurt you in a tangible way.

Week 5

In week 5, we practiced Serving Others. Although we typically think of serving others as meeting a physical need, we know that Jesus taught us to meet both spiritual and physical needs of those we encounter. One way to practice serving in this holistic way, as Jesus did, is to immerse yourself in the verses of Scripture that describe how Jesus served, ask God to show you someone in your life who has a need, whether physical or spiritual, that you could partner with God to meet, and then serve the person God brings to mind or who crosses your path with the words, actions, and courage God grants you.

This Week

Each of these practices is central to a living relationship with Jesus. This week, incorporate each in your daily life. Here’s one way to do this:

Arrange the Open Chair.  Pull an open chair up across from you to put yourself in a posture to remind yourself that God is seeking to transform you into Christlikeness and that you have a role to play and so does he.

—–

Read.  Read the verse listed below for the particular day using Lectio Divina.

—–

Pray.  Open your hands in prayer, asking God to give you eyes to see his kingdom and the ways you can join with him through your forgiveness and blessing of others, through serving someone in need, and in whatever other way he would invite you to participate.

—–

Listen.  Sit silently for 2-3 minutes and listen for what God is speaking to you and seeking to transform in you.

—–

Respond.  If God gives you actions to take, whether it is to forgive, to serve, to bless, or to take a step of faith in some other way, respond in obedience.

 

Daily Scripture Reading

Monday: Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

Tuesday: Matthew 13:24-52

Wednesday: Philippians 1:3-6

Thursday: Matthew 18:21-35

Friday: Luke 4:14-32

Saturday: Matthew 25:31-46

Kingdom Practice: Holy Week Lectio Divina

By | Kingdom Practices | 2 Comments

Kingdom Practice
Holy Week

Introduction.  This week is Holy Week, the last week of Jesus’ life before his resurrection.  The stories told about this last week are so familiar to us that we can be tempted to skip them and rely on our memories.  But as Dallas Willard once said, “familiarity breeds unfamiliarity.”  Let us not become so familiar with the story of Holy Week, Good Friday, and Easter that we become unfamiliar with Jesus himself.  Indeed, we may think of the death and resurrection as something Jesus accomplished for the future, and it is this, but it is also something Jesus accomplished so that we can be in relationship with him now and participate in his kingdom now.  It is the happenings of Holy Week that allow us to respond to Jesus’ invitation in our anchor text of Matthew 11:28-30.

Lectio Divina.  Our practice this week is one we have been practicing since we began gathering six weeks ago – Lectio Divina.  We have listed below two passages of Scripture to engage with each day.  The first passage is one from Holy Week and the second is our anchor passage from Matthew 11.  One way to engage in Lectio is to Read, Listen, and Repeat.

Read.  Read the passage slowly.

Listen.  Sit silently for one minute and pay attention to what words or phrases stand out to you.

Read.  Read the passage a second time and intentionally pause between phrases and sentences.

Listen.  Prayerfully ask: To what area of my life does that word or phrase relate?  Sit silently for two minutes and listen.

Read.  Read the passage a third time, again slowly.

Listen.  Prayerfully ask: Is there an invitation or next step for me, related to this word or phrase?  Sit silently for two minutes, and without trying to figure out the invitation or next step, just listen.

When you have completed this process, feel the freedom to sit quietly for a minute or two, or write down the words or phrases that stood out to you, or the invitation you heard God opening to you.

Daily Scripture Reading
Monday: Matthew 26:36-56 and 11:28-30
Tuesday: Matthew 26:57-75 and 11:28-30
Wednesday:  Matthew 27:11-26 and 11:28-30
Thursday: Matthew 27:27-56 and 11:28-30
Friday: Matthew 27:57-66 and 11:28-30
Saturday: Matthew 28:1-10 and 11:28-30

Additional Resources for Holy Week:

Daily Devotional:  CRM Empowering Leaders, 2014 Easter Devotional
Article:  Mercifully Forsaken, Mark Galli
Video: Good Friday

Kingdom Practice 5: Serving Others

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Kingdom Practice
Week 5 

Introduction

This week, we are practicing serving others.  Typically, when we refer to “serving others”, we immediately think of meeting physical needs.  But Jesus was clear in commanding us to serve others in a holistic way – physically and spiritually.  Often, we do one or the other.  This week, we want to do both as Jesus did.

Serving Others

In our gathering on Sunday, we read Luke 4:16-21, in which Jesus stunned those in his hometown synagogue by telling them that he was the fulfillment of the one prophesied in Isaiah 61.  Specifically, Jesus told those gathered to hear him that the Spirit of the Lord had anointed him to proclaim good news to the poor; proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind; set the oppressed free; and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  In other passages of Scripture, we read about Jesus meeting physical needs of those around him, but the times Jesus met a physical need, he also met a spiritual need.  As we will see as we read through the Scriptures this week, he calls us to do the same.

Here is one way to engage in the practice of serving others this week:

Read.  Each day, start your quiet time with God by reading Isaiah 61:1-3, which relates to spiritual needs, as well as the other passage listed for that particular day, which relates to ways Jesus met physical needs.

——-

Ask God.  As you read the daily passages, ask God to open your eyes to people in your life who have a need you could partner with God to meet.  For example, “Father, is there someone in my life who is imprisoned by something – an addiction, a toxic relationship, a pattern of thinking?  Are you inviting me to serve them in some way, whether with words of truth, an act of grace, a loving presence, or in some other way?”  Be silent and listen.

——-

Serve.  Pray that God would allow your path to cross with the person he brought to your mind or with someone who has a need and that he would give you the words, actions, and courage to serve that person.  Then, serve them in the name of Jesus Christ, who has set you free.

Daily Scripture Readings
Monday:  Isaiah 61:1-3 and Luke 4:14-21
Tuesday:  Isaiah 61:1-3 and Matthew 25:31-46
Wednesday:  Isaiah 61:1-3 and Matthew 28:16-20
Thursday:  Isaiah 61:1-3 and John 14:11-14
Friday:  Isaiah 61:1-3 and John 20:21-23
Saturday:  Isaiah 61:1-3 and Luke 10:25-37

 

Additional Resources

Article:  Moving from Solitude to Community to Ministry, Henri Nouwen

Books:  Invitation to a Journey: A Roadmap to Spiritual Formation, Robert Mulholland

Come be My Light: The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta, Mother Teresa

 

Kingdom Practices 4: Toward Forgiveness Together

By | Kingdom Practices | 2 Comments

Kingdom Practice
Week 4

Introduction

Last night we waded deeply into Jesus’ invitation to forgive our brother or sister from our heart.  Through the wonderful and difficult story of The Unmerciful Servant (Matt 18:21-35), we asked God to show us (1) Who do I need to forgive?, and (2) What is my next right step of forgiveness?  And like God always does, He met us in our stumbling steps toward Him.  Hallelujah.

But we all know that forgiveness doesn’t often happen in an instant, but through a long, messy, Grace-powered process.  Jesus taught that we should forgive our neighbor 70 x 7 times, and that doesn’t happen in one Sunday night service.  So our practice this week is to begin to become people committed to a lifetime of forgiveness.  Let’s take the small, practical steps right now that align us with God’s Kingdom of grace, letting it go, and second chances.

Here is our specific practice for the week: Hearing from God through another person. “Friend, do you see any unforgiveness in my life? Who would you say I still need to forgive?”  And then taking the next right step toward forgiveness.

The Journey of Forgiving.

One time this week, get together with a trusted friend and ask the wide open questions:  “Friend, do you see any unforgiveness in my life? Who would you say I still need to forgive?”  And then listen humbly.  What is your friend reflecting back to you?  Is he/she seeing a pattern with someone that you haven’t seen?  What is God doing in your heart through this conversation?

The following day, bring the conversation to God in prayer and ask “God, what is the next right step of forgiveness you want me to take?”

Four steps we walked through on Sunday…
—–
Feel. Do you simply need to let yourself feel the pain of being hurt/betrayed?  Is it time to stop running, avoiding, or denying that you were hurt, and honestly feel it.  Remember that you are not alone.
—–
Stop. Or maybe you’ve been feeling the pain deeply and clearly, and it’s time to stop fighting and attacking the person who hurt you.  To commit to not say a single bad word about them…or to them?  Maybe it is time to pray “God, I officially lay down my right to revenge or justice, and place this person in your hands.”
—–
Pray. As you feel the pain deeply and yet refuse to fight back, God may be inviting you into the next step:  Praying for your “enemy” (Matt 5:43-48), and blessing those who curse you (Luke 6:28).  Putting these words of Jesus into practice is one of the most difficult and freeing things we can do.
—–
Serve. Finally, as Kellye suggested last night, what is one way we tangibly serve those we are forgiving?  This will look different for every person in every situation, but what is one thing you can do to bless and serve them?  (I talked to a couple friends last night who feel God inviting them to forgive someone who is no longer living. In this case, what is one tangible action you can take to remember and honor their life?)

Daily Scripture Readings

Monday: John 21:1-13
Tuesday: Mt 18:21-22
Wednesday: Col 3:12-14
Thursday: Luke 6:32-36
Friday: Mt 5:43-48
Saturday: Mt 6:9-15

Additional Resources

(1) Video: Shauna’s teaching at Willow on the unmerciful servant.

(2) Book: “The Art of Forgiving” by Lewis Smedes.

(3) Short video: Fr Richard Rohr about forgiveness.

Notes and quotes about Forgiveness

By | Notes and quotes | 6 Comments
Shauna's benediction

Shauna’s benediction

On Sunday (March 30th), we walked through the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt 18:21-35) and Christ’s invitation to the freedom of forgiveness. In case you missed it or want to dig in a little deeper, here is the outline, with notes and quotes…

We are punished by our sin way more than we are punished for our sin.

Dallas Willard: Jesus’ teachings are not random commands that we must obey “or else”, but they are “simple observations for how life actually works.” (from Spirit of the Disciplines)

God doesn’t say “Do not gossip, or I will punish you.”
God says “Don’t gossip, because it will wreck your relationships!”
God doesn’t say “Don’t be greedy or I will smite you.”
God says “Don’t be greedy or it will whither your heart and suck the joy out of your life.”

What if God is NOT a traffic cop waiting in the bushes to bust you if you drive 1 MPH over the speed limit?
Instead, what if God is more like a loving parent calling out to His 16 yr old son “Please don’t drive too fast on these icy roads. It’s too dangerous. Please come home safe!”

Which brings us back to the parable of the Unmerciful Servant:
Maybe God is NOT saying “If you don’t forgive others I will get angry and have you tortured”, but instead “The Kingdom of God is about grace, forgiveness, and second chances. Don’t let unforgiveness cut you off from this flow of Grace, or you will live a tortured life.”

“We don’t come to God by insisting on some ideal worldly order or so-called perfection, but in fact we come “to knowledge of salvation by the experience of forgiveness” (Luke 1:77)—forgiveness of reality itself, of others, of ourselves—for being so ordinary, imperfect, and often disappointing. Many also have to forgive God for not being what they wanted or expected. One reason why I am so attracted to Jesus and then to St Francis is that they found God in disorder, in imperfection, in the ordinary, and in the real world—not in any idealized concepts. They were more into losing than winning. But the ego does not like that, so we rearranged much of Christianity to fit our egoic pattern of achievement and climbing.

Isn’t it strange that Christians worship a God figure, Jesus, who appears to be clearly losing by every criterion imaginable? And then we spend so much time trying to “win,” succeed, and perform. We even call Jesus’ “losing” the very redemption of the world—yet we run from it. I think Christians have yet to learn the pattern of redemption. It is evil undone much more than evil ever perfectly avoided. It is disorder reconfigured in our hearts and minds—much more than demanding any perfect order to our universe.

Much of the Christian religion has largely become “holding on” instead of letting go. But God, it seems to me, does the holding on (to us!), and we must learn the letting go (of everything else).”  (Father Richard Rohr)

Our prayer and practice for the night:  “God, who do I need to forgive from my heart?  What is the next right step I can take toward forgiveness?”

Four possible steps…

(1) For some of us, we need to begin by simply allowing ourselves to feel the pain of being wronged. Instead of running or avoiding and pretending, our first step toward forgiveness is to FEEL and ADMIT the pain in God’s presence. Maybe that’s as far as we can go right now.

(2) For some of us, this pain is quite clear and always present, but it’s been pushing us to fight and engage in some really unhelpful ways. And so we need to decide to stop fighting. Lay down our arms. Maybe it’s a decision to stop saying such terrible things about that person. Or maybe to stop saying hurtful things to that person. Maybe tonight all we can do is say “God, I’m done trying to get them back. I lay down my right to revenge. God, I will not fight them any longer.”

(3) For some of us, God is pulling us deeper. Not only will we stopping fighting them, but we’re ready to practice Jesus teaching and “pray for your enemy. Bless the one who curses you.” And so we want to begin actively praying for the person we need to forgive. Not that they would suffer or even change, but simply that God would bless them. And their family. And their lives. This is a very, very hard thing to do, but incredibly powerful.

(4) And finally, for some of us, the next step is to make them breakfast (Matt 21). To find a concrete, no strings-attached way to bless and serve them. This will look very different in every situation, but God will lead us to do the right thing if we ask Him.

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A couple more quotes and thoughts:

• You have already seen our “Kingdom Practice” for the week (HERE at this blog), and our big encouragement is DON’T TRY TO DO THIS ALONE!  First, remember that God has invited you into this process and promises to be faithful to complete the work God has begun.  Second, it is absolutely critical to find a friend or tribe to walk with.  Brothers and sisters who love us are one of God’s primary ways to heal and guide us.  Please don’t try to do this journey alone.

• Forgiveness is a life-long journey.  All God is inviting you to do is take the next right step.

• The song that accompanied our silent prayer time was “O Magnum Mysterium” by the Nordic Chamber Choir.

• One more helpful quote from Father Richard Rohr…

“Forgiveness is always the refusing of power. When someone has hurt you, you are in charge for a while. When you refuse to forgive, you are holding onto a power you have over another person. Somehow it feels good, to put them down as an inferior person or to place yourself above them as a righteously aggrieved person. Forgiveness is impossible if power or control is your way of life. Maybe that is why Jesus almost uses forgiveness as the litmus test of whether you are a true disciple.”