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Kingdom Practices

Kingdom Practice: Spiritual Listening

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Sibyl Towner

Sibyl Towner

Introduction.  This week we are practicing spiritual listening.  Last night, Sibyl Towner, co-founder and spiritual director of oneLifemaps, LLC and co-author of Listen to My Life, reminded us of the truth that every person longs to be listened to, and taught us how to give the gift of listening to one another.  Specifically, Sibyl led us through three-way listening, in which we simultaneously listen to what is happening inside of us, the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and the person who is speaking in order to be fully present and attentive.  As Sibyl reminded us, this is a “practice” and we won’t do it perfectly, especially at the beginning, so let’s take small, low-risk steps together and be surprised by what God does.

Spiritual Listening

To demonstrate the power of spiritual listening, Sibyl recounted the story from Luke 24: 13-35, in which two of the disciples encountered Jesus on their way to Emmaus.  Though Jesus obviously knew exactly what had happened and all the disappointment and despair his disciples felt when he was crucified, he asked them to tell him the full story of what had happened, listening to them as they walked.  We invite you to reflect deeply on this story.

The elements of spiritual listening…

Participation is invited, but not demanded

Invite the Holy Spirit

Confidentiality

Focused attention

Unconditional acceptance

No fixing, advising, or rescuing

Listen to the silence

Affirm the gift of the story

Two small steps to get started…

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(1) Listening “On the Way”.   Consider leaving early for a meeting you have at work, or walking your neighborhood without ear phones, or staying a few minutes longer wherever you are and ask the Holy Spirit to identify someone or place someone in your path to whom you can listen and be present.  When you encounter that person, remember the three-way listening technique and offer the gift of listening even if for just a couple of minutes.  

(2) Listening with your family or friends.  Try practicing spiritual listening with someone in your family or with a friend by following the elements above.

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Additional Resources

Books:  Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction, Alice Fryling.

Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction, Margaret Guenther.

Articles:  3-Way Listening, Sharon Swing.

Listening the Other into Free Speech, Mary Sharon More.

Kingdom Practice: Noticing and A Simple Prayer

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Hands open to receive

Hands open to receive

Introduction

Last night at the Practice, we learned about the centrality of the Eucharist (which simply means “thanksgiving) to the life of a follower of Jesus from Ian Morgan Cron.  In particular, Ian shared his insight that all of our sin can be described as the habitual pattern of stealing things that are meant to be received as a gift, using this short story to illustrate his point.  In this world, we often set out to obtain the things we believe will fulfill our desires for intimacy, or affirmation, or security by taking them because we believe God is withholding good things from us.  Think about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  But God is generous, so much so that he gave his Son to rescue us.  When we participate in the Eucharist, we remember God’s generosity and grace offered through Jesus Christ.  We remember that  communion is not a thing to be taken, but a gift to be received.

This week, we are going to practice two things: first, noticing the ways in which we attempt to take, or do take, things that are meant to be received as gifts; and second, praying a simple prayer that will lead us into our next four weeks of time together relating to community.

Noticing

Notice the times in your day when you find yourself grasping for something to fulfill a desire you have.  Ask: Is this thing I desire  meant to be received as a gift?  As best you are able, and without judging or shaming yourself, open your palms and remember that God is generous and he is not withholding any good thing from you.

A Simple Prayer

As we move into a month focused on community, consider holding this prayer before God this week:

“God, who could I walk through this next season of life with?  Please help me find my tribe.”

Additional Resources

Books:  Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir…of Sorts, Ian Morgan Cron.

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale, Ian Morgan Cron.

Video:   Ian Morgan Cron on Communion.

Kingdom Practice: A Rule of Life

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Rule of Life

Rule of Life

For the next two weeks, we are experimenting with a shared rule of life.  (A Rule of Life is a structure or rhythm for our lives that enables us to pay attention to God in everything we do.)  Over the last couple months, we’ve been exploring a number of practices that align us with The Kingdom;  and by God’s Grace, a clearer path has begun to emerge.  We are committing to this “rule of life” for the next 14 days, and then when we meet back together on June 1st, we’ll share stories and make adjustments.  Our leadership team is suggesting this first draft, but we need to put flesh on it as a community!  Here is the plan…

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Lectio in the morning
See / Immerse / Contend throughout the day
Examen in the evening
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(1) Lectio – Begin each day by opening the scriptures and inviting God to speak to you.  Feel free to follow your own reading plan, or join us in this:  Monday – John 4:4-26 / Tuesday – Luke 10:25-37 / Wednesday – John 5:1-15 / Thursday – John 8:1-11 / Friday – Luke 5:17-26 / Saturday – Luke 7:11-17 / Sunday – Luke 13:10-17  (Listen to Introduction to Lectio by Mindy Caliguire.  Read the blog post about Lectio.)

(2) See / Immerse / Contend – All day long, in every conversation, action, and moment, be asking God “Who do you want me to see?  Where should I immerse?  How can I contend and join Your restoration?”  In this way we practice the presence of God and pray without ceasing…always open to the winds of God’s Kingdom among us.  (Listen to Jon Huckins’ teaching on See/Immerse/Contend.  Read the blog about See/Immerse/Contend.)

(3) Examen – Each evening, gratefully lay your day before God and pray about the ways we joined His Kingdom and the ways we missed it.  And then, through God’s Grace, look forward to tomorrow.  (Listen to Father Michael’s teaching on The Examen.  Read the blog about Examen.)

Will you join us?

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)

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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)

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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)

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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<<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.

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<<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.

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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

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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

 

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.

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

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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…
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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.
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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.”
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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.
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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.