Let’s Make Disciples – The Restoration Project


Sometimes I think if I hear another person announce,

— “We need more discipling in our church! These people have never been taught what it really means to be a Christian. We’ve got to start telling them!”
— Or, “Discipleship – that’s what we are missing and until we get everyone on that page, the church will just go on spinning its wheels.”
— Or, “More Discipleship Groups! That’s the answer, more Discipleship Groups! Let’s get them going right now! Here you go, sign up here.” —

I will just have to scream!

Don’t get me wrong. I am firmly convinced we need to pay attention to discipleship and how folk who want to follow Jesus get a handle on what it entails to be Jesus’ disciple.

It’s just that we might be shouting so loud about discipleship the word is losing its meaning and we really don’t know what we are saying. We are just repeating “pretty” words.

Three weeks back, I wrote about the daily devotional app, Lectio 365 (http://discipleswalk.org/lectio-365-lectio-divina-at-your-fingertips/ ).

I mentioned that the folk who crafted it built it around what they identified as three priorities (to be authentic; to be relational; and to be missional) and six core practices (prayer and worship; creativity; hospitality; justice; mission; and learning).

That is fairly typical of those discipleship programs/methods that have a chance of making an impact on people’s lives. They take seriously the foundation they build on. They not only take it seriously, they make it explicit and clear and offer it in such a way that it can be actualized in one’s daily life. After all, what good is a “mission statement” if it is only a statement with no thought to the mechanics of how the mission is realized?

One Discipleship program that has been around a number of years and has proved worthwhile in a number of settings is, The Restoration Project.

There is a website devoted to the program, http://www.therestorationproject.net/ , and a book by the same name. Actually, there are two websites, the other being, http://www.prayworshipserve.com/ .

You will notice on their home page the mention of seven core practices, Pray, Worship, Serve, Give, Learn, Listen, Join. Elsewhere this is described as three practices and seven vows.

The practices are to spend twenty minutes a day in prayer, one hour a week in worship, and serving four times a month. That’s getting specific with your practices. In addressing “serving” they write “you will have to commit sufficient time and energy to actually slow down and get to know the one you intend to serve. Serving means you will have to extend yourself beyond writing a check and taking a walk. Serving means you will have to do something real.”

An essential component is the “Discipleship Group.” Yes, they talk and write about discipleship groups.

In the “Liturgy for the Gathering of a Discipleship Group” the seven practices/vows are identified as,

  • (1) setting aside time regularly for prayer,
  • (2) praise God in “my” Christian community weekly in worship,
  • (3) serve others by working toward giving an hour a week in service of the poor,
  • (4) be a good steward of money by giving ten percent to the church,
  • (5) “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 236) the Holy Scriptures,
  • (6) listen to God’s call on my life, and
  • (7) join with others in a Discipleship Group so “love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12).

Did they spell it out enough? Too much?

I am not claiming the pattern offered by The Restoration Project is the only structure for discipling folk. It almost seems every week some group offers a new pattern and a new name for their particular approach.

Nor, will I claim theirs is the best.

What I will claim is they have put thought and prayer into what is offered and it is practiced in a number of churches, from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Rafael, California, and points in between. And people value being part of the process.

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Spiritual Truth in the Age of Fake News by Elizabeth Geitz

I made a mistake – When I saw the title of this book, I thought it would be a frontal attack on all the politicians and political pundits who shout “Fake News!” at any idea they want to discredit and shout down without offering any evidence or rational justification to the contrary.

What I found was a wonderfully written, well reasoned and spiritually grounded book which walks us through a number of “-isms” and phobias that not only haunt our world and destroy people and relationships but have used misreadings and misunderstandings and downright perversions of scripture to do so.

Can I say “AMEN, Sister!”

The Rev. Elizabeth Geitz brings her skills at writing and biblical insight/proclamation to bear on sexism, racism, anti-semitism, xenophobia and heterosexism. Additionally, the 101 meditations in the book give well-founded insight into the use of feminine imagery in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures to describe God as well as a chapter on women leaders in the Bible.

I am aware that some will think any suggestion of “feminine imagery” for God is something out of “paganism” and/or new-ageism and will turn their backs on this book. That misunderstanding is unfortunate given Rev Geitz’s grounding of each meditation in Scripture. Each meditation begins with a brief Scripture passage and ends most often with questions or suggestions that help the reader to further engage the Scripture for themselves.

Rev Geitz has also done her readers a great service by offering a “Reader’s Guide” in this book. Many times a publisher will offer a study guide to a book in a separate volume at an additional price. Not so here. She offers suggestions on how the reader can sit with a meditation, savor it, and rather than just end with reading her words take it more deeply into their thoughts, prayers, and lives. She also addresses how the book might be approached in a book group or study group. On top of that she suggests, “For faith leaders of all traditions, the index in the back can be useful for sermon preparation.” If only so! Preachers – Are you listening?

This book offers 101 brief meditations thats lead one past “Fake News” built on misreadings of Scripture to liberating news that is redemptive and life-enriching. Too much praise? After having read this book, I don’t think so.

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

— —
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

#SpiritualTruthInTheAgeOfFakeNews

What is “Quiet Time” Anyway?

I recall as a young person in church classes, I was told it was important to have a daily “quiet time.”  As I recall that instruction, it was always offered to me in terms of “read your bible and prayer every day.”  And it seemed I was supposed to already know not just what it was, but also how it was done.  I did know what that meant, that is how the words were defined, but I am not at all sure I knew how to really implement bible reading and prayer in a few minutes each morning.  Maybe I knew as much as I could as a young person of that day, but then again some more hand holding might have been a good thing.  

Come to think of it, maybe that was why our leaders put in front of us “youth devotionals” which had a verse of Scripture, a “devotional thought” (which to my thinking at the time might or might not have connected with the Scripture) and maybe a sentence prayer or some statement like, “now go and act like this.”  Maybe that did “count” as hand holding by our leaders but as I look back on it, it still left me in a rather “passive” approach to “a daily quiet time.”  Someone or something else was “doing” my daily quiet time for me.  Perhaps I am being overly critical, or maybe have too selective a memory?  What do you think?  Not just about what I recall from my “up-brining” but also from your past experiences.

Two weeks ago I asked you to consider an app, Lectio 365, that falls into this genre of a devotional app for what we could call a daily quiet time.  To my way of thinking it goes beyond that.  It helps put before us a structure (or maybe we could call it a template) for how to put yourself in a place to not just call a few minutes a “quiet time,” but how to pause and quiet yourself, how to meditate, reflect on a Scripture passage, how you can spend several days on one passage and dig into it for its depth, and how to integrate Scripture and prayer.  All that seems to me to constitute some “hand holding” on what a quiet time could be.

Today, I would like to offer you a similar app and web site, d365 ( https://d365.org ).

Yes, both by virtue of their respective names, call your attention to a goal of daily practice.

D365 can be delivered as an app on your devices, on a web page and in your email that links to a web page that offers the day’s reflections.  For some of us who spend a good bit of time looking at emails (maybe too much, but that we can consider another day), the daily email reminder is probably a plus.

D365 is produced by a ministry organization named Passport.  They report their mission is “With Christ as our foundation, Passport empowers students to have fresh encounters with God, embrace community, and extend grace to the world.”  They work to do that through youth camps and also this app.  But, hold on.  I know it wants to empower “students” but don’t like that lead you to think it cannot offer some great content and structure for us “old-folk” who might be a little set in our ways.

One more thing about Passport.  It reports its denominational partners are “the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the Presbyterian Church (USA), The Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist Church.”  I’ll leave it to you to decide if that is a plus or minus for you.  As for me, it is a plus.

For each day it offers the pattern of “Pause – Listen – Think – Pray – Go.”  

From their web site ( https://d365.org/about_d365/ ) they tell us – 

“Our devotions are written by ministers, professors, students, teachers, missionaries, denominational leaders, and others who work with and care for students. Typically, an author writes on a single theme for one week. In these devotions, you will read honest struggles and questions, all in the context of real faith. As you read the thoughts of the writers, think about your own response to the scripture for the day. Let the writer’s words serve as background for your own conversation with God.”

Pause
Each day of the week, we begin our devotions with a powerful statement intended to help you pause and prepare to listen to what God is saying. The “Pause” statement will remain the same throughout the week.

Listen –
You will find selected lectionary scripture verse(s) for each day. Unless otherwise noted, scriptures are from the Common English Bible.

Think –
The devotional is designed to help you think and interact with the scripture. Let the writer’s words guide your reflection on the scripture.

Pray
The prayer is a starting point for you to begin your own personal conversations with God.

Go –
We conclude our devotions with a blessing intended to send you out, remembering what you have learned, guided by the Spirit. The “Go” statement will also remain the same throughout the week.

Their blessing, Go statement, for last week was – 

“God, let my seeing and hearing, my words and my actions be rooted like a strong tree in a silent certainty of your presence. Amen.  (Adapted from a Celtic benediction by J. Phillip Newell)”

And the blessing for this week is – 

“May God give you Grace never to sell yourself short!  Grace to risk something big for something good!  Grace to remember that the world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but Love!  (from “The Dismissal Blessing” by William Sloane Coffin)”

This week’s theme is “Be Loved.”  The themes for the last several weeks are “Be,” Be Together,” and “Be Still.”  If you go back to the meditations for April and May (which you can find on the calendar on the web site) you will see they spent time addressing the Covid-19 pandemic.

What do you think?  Want to check out the web site ( https://d365.org/ )?  Maybe download and try on the app?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Retreat Without Having to Leave Home – Online Retreats at Paraclete Press

How much screen time have you had during the last two months?  Is it up from a year ago?

For most of us it probably is.  Why?  Does it have anything to do with the pandemic we are all facing and the amount of time we have had to “shelter-in-place” or otherwise alter our lifestyles?

Probably so.

We have had to adapt to some new ways of doing things.

One thing that has altered for many is how we “go to church.”  Many congregations (and parishioners) who never thought of attending their congregational services electronically are now doing so.  Some pastors have discovered they may be connecting with more people now than when preaching was only offered to those the same room.  We all know that for a very long time such services have been coming to folks on the radio, on TV and more recently on computer screens, but now it is becoming virtually normal to “attend” church on Facebook Live, or Zoom or similar services.  

So how about a retreat?  Do you need to get away from your screen for a while?  Or at least alter how you approach it? 

How about an “Online Retreat?”

I recently received an email from Paraclete Press about six online retreats they are offering this summer.

Each retreat is from 9 am to 3 pm (Eastern Time)  and includes time with the retreat leader/speaker, break time, stretching/exercise time and time for questions and answers with the speaker.  Yes, a pattern similar to what we might find in any retreat.

While this retreat is not about getting away physically to a “retreat center,” it is about changing our routine and our focus and making a space for us to focus on the spiritual and the Holy in a deliberate and intentional way.  Not a bad idea at all.

Of course, Paraclete Press, will not be the only group offering such and I am not trying to claim these are best around this summer (I am not at all sure what else may be around!) but I was impressed with several of their offerings based on what I already knew about either the speakers or the topics and the quality of books published by Paraclete Press.

Here is a link to the retreats – 

https://paracletepress.com/pages/paraclete-press-announces-online-summer-retreat-series

The retreats will use Zoom and will cost $65.

And if you need a quick list of the retreats, here you go – 

Friday, June 26- Angela Alaimo O’Donnell—On Pilgrimage with Flannery O’Connor: In Search of the Province of Joy. 

Friday, July 10- Sybil MacBeth—Praying in Color: Old and New Ways to Pray in an Ever-New World. 

Friday, July 24- Fr. Ron Rolheiser—Spiritual Principles Drawn from the Deep Wells of Christian Mysticism. 

Friday, August 7th- Msgr. Timothy Verdon—The Art of Prayer. 

Friday, August 21- Mark Burrows—Heart-Work and the Art of Loving: A virtual day-retreat  with the Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. 

Friday, August 28- Jana Riess—Writing Your Spiritual Memoir: Why and How to Tell Your Story with Jana Riess, author of Flunking Sainthood. 

While I cannot comment (and if I am thinking clearly, should not) on all the presenters and topics, I will offer a few observations.

  1. Flannery O’Connor is always worth reading and encountering.  I have not read Dr. O’Donnell works, but she has spent much time in O’Connor’s works and Dr. O’Donnell’s books have been well reviewed by trustworthy voices.
  2. Sybil MacBeth’s approach to “Praying in Color” has often been recommended by friends of mine whose advice I always find very worthwhile.  If you enjoy doodling and/or coloring, this would be of interest to you.  If you are not familiar with MacBeth’s approach, visit her website – https://prayingincolor.com/
  3. Fr. Ron Rolheiser is a respected writer and a good voice to pay attention to our current spiritual landscape.  It is always worthwhile to pay attention to what the Christian mystical tradition is really about and what it can teach us.
  4. Jana Riess’s “Flunking Sainthood” should be required reading for everyone and especially those of us who think “all of us”  must pay attention to our “spiritual practices.”  Especially those of us who might approach “practices” in an overly rigid and “legalistic” spirit. Riess writes clearly and with much humor.  This leads me to think her retreat would be enjoyable on top of informative.  Of course, given the title of the retreat, I am guessing she is going to ask us to pay attention, careful attention, to our own spiritual journeys.

Do you have a Friday you want to set apart for a retreat?  You have options.

charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Lectio 365 – Lectio Divina at Your Fingertips

Several years ago when our church class began discussing spiritual practices/disciplines I began sending out a weekly email to help us have a context for our thinking about practices and how these relate to formation and discipleship. Over time other folk were added to mailings. I am sending this to you today since you have received one of my mailings in the past.

Later I saved those mailings to my blog http://www.discipleswalk.org.

Over the last couple of years I have posted to the blog infrequently, but with this post, I plan to offer a weekly thought on practices, formation or discipleship.

If you do not want to receive the weekly email, let me know and I will not include you in future mailings.

… So … Here we go ….

A couple of months ago I came across an app called “Lectio 365.” It draws on the tradition of lectio divina (more on that in a future post) to integrate a daily reflection on Scripture with prayer. I have found its structure and underlying principles have much to offer and have enjoyed using the app.

First, as to its structure.

With each day’s meditation it steps you through a time to

  • (1) Pause to be still,
  • (2) Rejoice with a Psalm,
  • (3) Reflect on Scripture,
  • (4) Ask for God’s help, and
  • (5) Yield to his will in your life.

In the app you can read the meditation for the day or listen to it on your device. The meditation is not available online so you have to have the app (there is a version for Apple devices and one for Andriod devices).

On the website https://www.24-7prayer.com/dailydevotional you can find some more info on the app and on the group that built it.

And that more information brings me to the underlying principles.

So, second, as to the foundation on which the app is built. And we are not looking at the technological foundation for the app but its spiritual underpinnings.

The 24-7 community reports it is built on three priorities and six core practices. The priorities are

  • (1) To be authentic: true to Jesus;
  • (2) To be relational: kind to others; and
  • (3) To be missional: loyal to the gospel.

Looks and sounds like a “mission” statement you might find for any number of churches or organizations that stress Gospel spirituality.

And while it sounds good, it doesn’t tell you what to do about that “mission.”

That’s where the core practices enter in. To quote from their web page –

THE 6 PRACTICES
Being true to Jesus through:

(1) PRAYER AND WORSHIP – Encountering God and prioritising time in His presence
(2) CREATIVITY – Expressing praise and adoration in creative forms

Being kind to others through:

(3) HOSPITALITY – Demonstrating God’s welcome to everyone
(4) JUSTICE – Caring passionately about those who need support, and meeting the needs of others

Being loyal to the gospel through:
(5) MISSION – Intentionally sharing Jesus in prayer and in action
(6) LEARNING – Growing together in faith, knowledge and wisdom

I appreciate how they are trying to move beyond a great sounding “mission statement” and identifying ways to make their priorities a reality in their everyday lives.

And they really did build the daily meditations in the app around these practices. For instance, this week they are drawing attention to mission and justice by looking at passages from Acts and how the community of believers shared their lives and livelihood with one another.

Let’s let the producers of the app speak for themselves. The following description of the app is from the app on the page, “About Lectio365.” –

“Lectio 365 is a Christian daily devotional resource that helps you encounter God and shape your life by praying the Bible every day….”

“Each week – Explore a theme or practice with a leader from the 24-7 Prayer movement. Throughout the year journey through six practices that help us shape our lives around the three great loves at the heart of Christianity.

Discover how we love God through prayer and creativity (Matthew 22:37), love one another through justice and hospitality (Matthew 22:39), and love the world through learning and mission (Matthew 28:18-20).”

From the time I have spent with the app thus far, I will say they are doing a good job staying on focus with their identified priorities and practices. There is something there for us to pay attention to.

I think the app is worth trying on for a while. If you do, let me know what you think.

Charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

A Lenten Prayer

As we move toward the beginning of Lent in two days, I want to share a couple of things with you this morning.

First – In August I began posting short reflections on the week’s lesson from the International Sunday School Lessons (ISSL) also know as the Uniform Lessons. I usually post 3 times a week. Each post is an invitation to engage the Scripture passage and pay attention to what you notice. This week we begin considering passages from the Hebrew Prophets starting with Amos. You can find my posts at http://lectio.discipleswalk.org.

Second – I want to share once again a Lenten prayer I have posted many times since I first came across it. If you find a way to incorporate it in your Lenten practices, I trust it will bless you days.

Fast from judging others;
feast on the Christ indwelling in them.

Fast from emphasis on differences;
feast on the unity of all life.

Fast from apparent darkness;
feast on the reality of light.

Fast from words that pollute;
feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from discontent;
feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger;
feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism;
feast on optimism.

Fast from worry;
feast on trust.

Fast from complaining;
feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives;
feast on affirmatives.

Fast from unrelenting pressures;
feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility;
feast on nonviolence.

Fast from bitterness;
feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern;
feast on compassion for others.

Fast from personal anxiety;
feast on eternal truth.

Fast from discouragement;
feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress;
feast on truths that uplift.

Fast from lethargy;
feast on enthusiasm.

Fast from suspicion;
feast on truth.

Fast from thoughts that weaken;
feast on promises that inspire.

Fast from idle gossip;
feast on purposeful silence.

Gentle God,
during this season of fasting and feasting,
gift us with your presence
so we can be a gift to others in carrying out your work.

Amen.

(William Arthur Ward (1921-1994))

charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

… where will he appear …

Allow me a moment the Christmas Day to share a few words from the sermon “The Face in the Sky” by Frederick Buechner. You can find the full text of the sermon at https://www.frederickbuechner.com/blog/2019/12/24/weekly-sermon-illustration-the-face-in-the-sky

Those who believe in God can never in a way be sure of him again. Once they have seen him in a stable, they can never be sure where he will appear or to what lengths he will go or to what ludicrous depths of self-humiliation he will descend in his wild pursuit of humankind. If holiness and the awful power and majesty of God were present in this least auspicious of all events, this birth of a peasant’s child, then there is no place or time so lowly and earthbound but that holiness can be present there too. And this means that we are never safe, that there is no place where we can hide from God, no place where we are safe from his power to break in two and recreate the human heart, because it is just where he seems most helpless that he is most strong, and just where we least expect him that he comes most fully.

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Into this world – Thomas Merton

Today, December 10, is the anniversary of the death of Thomas Merton. Merton has been a leading voice on spirituality, contemplation and our encounter with the world since at least 1948 with the publication of his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain.

Perhaps the following quote from Merton offers something to hear during this season of giving and receiving of gifts, food, and “best wishes.”

Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for him at all, Christ has come uninvited. But because he cannot be at home in it, because he is out of place in it, and yet he must be in it, his place is with those others for whom there is no room. His place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, tortured, exterminated. With those for whom there is no room, Christ is present in this world.

charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Road Work ?

One of the email Advent devotionals I received this week instead of focusing on the usual Advent theme of “coming” had a thought on “construction.”

I received this from Franciscan Media –

Your Daily Minute Meditation –
Advent Is Construction Season
The call of Advent is clear. From both the prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist, we hear, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah was writing to the people exiled far from their homeland. John the Baptist was talking to people who had lost their way in a tangle of politics and religion. In our own lives, we hear this call as well. We all have some roadwork to do in our souls. We might say Advent is construction season.

—from the book Simple Gifts: Daily Reflections for Advent by Diane M. Houdek
https://blog.franciscanmedia.org/minute-meditations/advent-is-construction-season-0

Road work as an Advent discipline – worth thinking about.

charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Advent is Almost Here

What will the days between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day be like for you?

Busy?

Will there be shopping to do? parties to prepare for? family meals to prepare? decorations to get out of the storage boxes and arrange on a tree, in the house, in the yard, and/or on the house? It could almost make one tired just thinking about what can go on during these next weeks.

On the church calendar we call most of these days Advent. The first Sunday of Advent this year comes in a few days on December 1, 2019.

So during these busy days of November and December how will you nourish your spirit?  What will Advent be for you?

This past Lent I passed on a few resources for Lenten readings and practices and I wondered if it might be worthwhile to share a couple of items as we move into Advent.

First, A few days ago I learned that Renovaré is offering a free download of a short book of meditations for Advent. What is interesting to me is that writers offer not only words for us but also images. Each of the four meditations includes a classical work of art for our reflection and meditation – visio divina – divine or sacred seeing.

To access the free download visit – https://renovare.org/books/meditations-on-the-birth-of-jesus

If you are not familiar with Renovaré (which grew out of the work of Richard Foster) this would be a good time to visit their site and explore their offerings. One such is the book A Spiritual Formation Workbook: Small Group Resources for Nurturing Christian Growth by James Bryan Smith, Lynda L. Graybeal. It has great guidelines for starting a spiritual formation group.

Next, at Praying in Color you can find resources for Advent Calendars and Advent Paper Chains and on the website learn something about what “praying in color” is about and what it might offer you.

Finally, do you like poetry? Then you should see what poems the Englewood Review of Books is offering each week that connect with the lectionary readings. The page got my full attention by posting the following quote from Walter Brueggemann –

“Freedom, justice, peace, and abiding joy [emerge]
when the poet comes, when the poet speaks,
when the preacher comes as poet.”

If you don’t think you like poetry, why not visit the page anyway. You might discover a new way of hearing the truths of Advent and the Gospel.

Take some time and see if any of these practices might nourish you this Advent.

charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}