Why Can’t You Hear Me?

Why would Dr. Kim O’Reilly, a successful teacher, college professor, conflict resolution consultant and cross-cultural trainer who has her own consulting firm (www.Intercultural Solutions.net) wade into the the conflict surrounding Christain faith, Scriptures and homosexuality?

Maybe because she is so familiar with those waters and the folks who live on both sides of the conflict.  She knows the people, brings a strong set of skills, and she can write an extremely readable book.  And on top of all of that, she really believes, “… we [can] get beyond the disagreements, divisiveness, posturing, entrenchment, and polarization we see playing out in our society today.”  (p. 150-151 in We Love You, But You’re Going to Hell, 2018)

I hope she is right and not just a dreamer with blind hope.

In We Love You, But You’re Going to Hell: Christians and Homosexuality, Agree, Disagree, Take a Look she brings all skills to bear on the divide that exists between sincere Christians and homosexuals.

More than just a set of skills she comes to the divide having been raised as the daughter of a fundamentalist Christian missionary and preacher.  In chapter 2, “My Story,” she tells us she “was raised … to be conservative, to read the Bible, to have a personal relationship with God, and to attend church Sunday mornings and two evenings a week.” (p 10)  A little further in the chapter she tells us of the seven year process it took before she “came out” to herself as a lesbian and later to her family.

She knows both sides of the divide and brings to it a desire to see (and hear) true dialogue come about.  This book is her very personal offering to help that dialogue start.

Over 11 chapters she takes time to tell her story, to examine the scriptures used to condemn homosexuality, to discuss sexual orientation, stereotypes, marriage and why all this matters.

She writes in an easy to follow style, and has great skill in summarizing the many aspects and dimensions that are involved in this conflict.

In the last chapter, “What Can We Do?” she carefully describes the landscape of where dialogue can begin as we all move beyond stereotypes and name-calling.

She is very hopeful.  Given the firm lines that have been drawn by some in this “battle,” I have to admit I am not quite so hopeful.

Let me ask you a question.  If someone came to you and told you they had come to the realization they were gay and their church, which they very much wanted to be part of, was pushing they away, what you say to them?  Would you tell them to repent, get “really” saved and ask God to cure them; or would you tell them to turn their back on the church, their faith and their God and walk (maybe run) away from the Christian faith; or would help them find a congregation that would love them and help them grow as a disciple of Jesus?  I go with the third option.

Charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

 #WeLoveYouButYoureGoingToHell

— —

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.

Have You Learned to Read?

Last week I posted a few comments about one of the books from Renovare, Spiritual Formation Workbook, and I’ll like to follow up with some material from the introduction to Devotional Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups.  This is another book that grows out of the work of Renovare.  It has 52 readings from classic spiritual writings.  

What follows is a few paragraphs from Richard Foster’s and James Bryant Smith’s introduction to the selections.  They give some great pointers on how read the selections and provide a good understanding of what lectio divina can be.

A word of instruction needs to be given about reading these devotional classics.  These writers make no attempt to grab you quick and hold you tight.  They have no intention of tickling your ears and titillating your fantasies. They promise no easy steps to instant holiness, no guaranteed plan for personal prosperity, no surefire technique for peace of mind.

Since these men and women wrote before the modern notion of speed reading, they did not know to fill each paragraph with trite clichés and meaningless jargon. As a result, each phrase is pregnant with meaning and it is best to read at a measured pace, pausing often to reread, rethink, reexperience the words until we not only understand their meaning but are shaped by the truth of them. Jean-Pierre de Caussade counsels us: “Read quietly, slowly, word for word to enter into the subject more with the heart than the mind. … From time to time make short pauses to allow these truths time to flow through all the recesses of the soul and to give occasion for the operation of the Holy Spirit who, during these peaceful pauses and times of silent attention, engraves and imprints these heavenly truths in the heart. … Should this peace and rest last for a longer time it will be all the better. When you find that your mind wanders resume your reading and continue thus, frequently renewing these same pauses.”

There is a technical word for this kind of reading and it might be helpful for you to know it – lectio divina, “divine reading.” This is a kind of reading in which the mind descends into the heart, and both are drawn into the love and goodness of God. We are doing more than reading words; we are seeking “the Word exposed in the words,” to use the phrase of Karl Barth. We are endeavoring to go beyond information to formation—to be formed and molded by what we read. We are listening with the heart to the Holy within. This prayerful reading, as we might call it, transforms us and strengthens us.

From:Foster and Smith, Devotional Classics, pp 2-3

Just as de Caussade counsels a quiet, slow read with frequent pauses in approaching writings such as have been selected for Devotional Classics, you will probably want to read the above paragraphs a few times to absorb as much of it’s counsel as you can for now.  Come back to it later and see what more speaks to you.  

And you might want to look into _Devotional Classics_.  Each of the 52 selections is accompanied by a Scripture passage, reflection questions and suggested exercises. It seems we might call it a “workbook” also.  

charles

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

Wisdom Finds Her Voice

The Proverbist of Hebrew Scripture tells us,

Wisdom shouts in the street;
in the public square she raises her voice.
Above the noisy crowd, she calls out.
At the entrances of the city gates, she has her say…
(Proverbs 1:20-21)

I wonder if Wisdom could learn a thing or two by listening to Paulette Meier voice the words of Wisdom she found in her encounter with the Quakers that she shares in her album, Timeless Quaker Wisdom in Plainsong.

Wisdom may have shouted or even “yelled” on the street corner, but plainsong might help the words take root.

A disclaimer first off – I am not a musician. In point of fact, I have Zero musical skills or ability. And no, I am not going to tell you, “… but I know what I like.”

I will tell you that these songs, sung in plainsong (a kind of chant, if I understand the term correctly), are beautiful as Paulette Meier sings them, have a quality that is rich in sound, rich in the Wisdom distilled from Quaker writings, and in themselves are not only a great introduction to Quaker spirituality, but should make everyone who hears them, dig deeper into the spiritual soil that Quakers have tilled for us.

And listeners can begin their exploration of the Quaker spirit with the liner notes that come with the album.

The liner notes are not only about the music but also about Meier’s background as a folk singer, peace educator, and her journey to Quaker spirituality where she found “inward mystical experience of the Divine Light was grounding and sustenance for the outward work to be done in the world.” As many before her, this balance of the Inward Light with a commitment to the work of peace in the world drew her to the Quaker faith.

Her reflections on her journey do not end there but give us a road map of the support she received from the Quaker community as she found herself moving more deeply into the spirit of Quakerism and becoming acquainted with the depths found in the Quaker writings.

As her reading took her to William Penn and George Fox, she found, “My troubled mind was eased whenever I reviewed a certain quotation of George Fox: ‘Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit. . . .’ I wanted to commit these words to memory, and when I did, a melody came with them. And thus began a practice of turning Quaker passages into chant-like songs.”

And on this album we hear some of what came of that practice, with the first song being,

Be still and cool in Thy own mind and spirit, from thy own thoughts,
and then thou wilt feel the principle of God to turn thy mind to the Lord God,
whereby thou wilt receive God’s strength and power from whence life comes,
whereby thou wilt receive God’s strength, to allay all blusterings, storms, and tempests.

But, don’t just read the words here, go to her web site where you can hear some samples of the songs, https://paulettemeier.bandcamp.com/album/timeless-quaker-wisdom-in-plainsong .

There are 22 songs on the album that Meier sees moving through four themes: (1) ”first is the act of centering deeply into stillness” (2) “second is the experience of the vision, the discovery of the hidden pearl,the Kingdom of God within.” (3) “The third is about spiritual relationship”, and (4) “the fourth describes the internal leadings that call us outward into the world.”

As I read and listen to these songs, I find myself thinking of how they could be used in a number of personal and group settings, even forming the core of retreat. Do I have any “takers” on that.

She draws from many of the Quaker writers, both male and female. Some of the songs speak directly to the Quaker belief that both the Inward Light and giving voice to that Light is not restricted to one gender. All voices are to be heard.

The liner notes include the words to the songs, information as to the sources of the quotes in Quaker writings and transcriptions of the music.

Let me close with one more of the songs drawn from the words of George Fox,

Be patterns, be examples in all countries,
places, islands, nations, wherever you come;
that your carriage and life
may preach among all sorts of people and to them;
then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world,
answering that of God in everyone ;
whereby in them ye may be a blessing
and make the witness of God in them to bless you.

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

#TimelessQuakerWisdomInPlainsong

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this album 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.

Let’s Open Our Workbooks to Page ….

In previous posts I called your attention to a couple of devotional apps and in each case gave some focus to the spiritual principles and practices that form a foundation for the writers and the apps. Today I want to spend a few minutes looking at a short book that is a great resource for congregations, classes and individuals wanting to explore what a spiritual formation group can offer.

The book is, A Spiritual Formation Workbook: Small-Group Resources for Nurturing Spiritual Growth by James Bryan Smith with Lynda Graybeal with a forward by Richard J. Foster.

This workbook grows out of the work of Richard Foster and Renovare. If you do not know about Renovare, you need to. A great way to see what they offer would be to subscribe to their Friday email. You can find info on that here – http://renovare.org . At the bottom of the page you can enter your name and email address to subscribe to their weekly email which highlights some of their available resources. You will find info on articles, podcasts, and webinars in the weekly email and on their website.

Now back to the workbook.

First, on the back of the workbook I have, it claims to be a “… beginning workbook for Spiritual Formation Groups featuring guidelines for starting a group, study plans for the first nine sessions, and a questionnaire that helps map the way ahead. Based on six major dimensions of the spiritual life found in the life of Christ and Christian tradition … this workbook provides all the necessary ingredients to start and maintain a Spiritual Formation Group.”

I know. You are thinking, “So what? What else would a book with such a title claim for itself?”

And yes, that’s true. And this book follows through. It provides you with what it promises.

It is not a book of devotions. It majors on the mechanics of how to start a formation group, gives details for how the first weeks can develop and how the group can go on from there.

And it really is a WORKBOOK! Each week will have reflection questions and exercises to keep the group engaged. And it is for a group. A basic premise is that from week to week different members of the group will facilitate the meeting. You will not sit back to listen to someone lecture or read for the entire session. But, there is enough support throughout the book, that this will not be a burden on any member.

Over the course of the several weeks the group will look to the life of Jesus to call attention to six areas of our lives, (1) devotion to God, (2) virtue in thought, word and action, (3) empowerment by the Spirit, (4) Compassion toward all people, (5) proclamation of the good news of the gospel, (6) harmony between faith and work.

Oh, did I mention “homework.” There will be exercises the members select to do between the meetings.

There it is in a nutshell. A lifelong work. It begins with details for these several weeks and then leads the group members to see how they might go on in the intentional work of spiritual formation.

Do you see a time and place you might want to “try on” this workbook?

charles
{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

On Satan, Demons, and Psychiatry by Ragy Girgis

Psychiatry? Is Psychiatry going to solve our problems with Satan, demons and demon possession? It’s about time!

But how? Medication? Electroconvulsive therapy? Psychoanalysis? Jungian Analysis? Oh, maybe one of the forms of behavioral therapy? So many options.

While Dr. Girgis will present a case for how psychiatry can help us understand demons and demon possession, it will be as he combines his training as a psychiatrist, his experience as a clinician working with those with serious mental illness and his reading of a number of biblical texts we most often regard as examples of demon possession not only as a psychiatrist but as a practicing Christian.

Early in the book he tells us that, “the goal of this book is to help change misconceptions that have historically pervaded Christianity … about serious mental illness … to provide an … educational account of untreated serious mental illness, with the ultimate objective of decreasing the stigma about serious mental illness in the Christian community and increasing the acceptance of psychiatric treatment.” (pp 13-14)

Did you notice in those few short lines the repetition, “… serious mental illness”?

If you, you have been introduced to two things you will find in Dr Girgis’ book. (1) He is very intent on us understanding his focus will be on “serious mental illnesses, such as severe depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.” (p 4) (2) He seems to regard repetition as a necessary part of educating the reader. He will repeat himself.

He reminds me of the minister who said that a preacher must tell them people what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. (Surely, you’ve heard that before!)

In the preface he goes about outlining what he will present. He spends a number of chapters (chapters 2 – 12) presenting his case. And in the Conclusion he summarizes the ground he has covered. Before I frighten you away from the book, let me add, he does all this in 112 pages that is very readable and not at all sluggish.


In each of the biblical scenes and personages he address (Moses, King Saul, King David, Jonah, Nebuchadnezzar, the Gadarene Demoniac, and an “exorcism” in Capernaum), he will argue that we need not understand it as demon possession but can better understand it with the tools and perspective of modern psychiatry.

He speaks of “The Bible com[ing] from a different narrative culture that could not explain things in terms of Enlightenment rationality…. When reading … and understanding the Bible stories, one must recognize that these two narratives (pre- and post-Enlightenment) produce two narratives that are different but readily and largely overlap…. We can honor them both.” (p 64)

You need to read this book to see for yourself if he was able to honor both. I think he did a good job.

I would like to turn this book loose in a group at church and see what kind of discussion we could have and what we could learn from Dr Girgis.

And most importantly, I would love to know how successful he can be in helping us get past the stigma associated with mental illnesses. I can only hope and pray he is successful with many.

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.

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}