Saturday, July 31, 2010

Anam Chara by any other name . . .

What is now called "spiritual direction", was referrred to as Anam Chara or soul care in the ancient church. It involved nurture and support, as well as healing and restoration. It was in this context that spiritual formation occurred. As the disciplines were practiced, the Holy Spirit was about the work of transformation. Today we have fragmented what was once one life-giving fellowship in Christ. Spiritual direction, discipleship, spiritual formation, healing and more were all one in the early church.

Patti and I have discussed what we sense this may look like in our churches, and concluded it happens more in small, intimate groups ("two or more"). It is both an equipping and receiving "ministry" that all followers of Christ should be involved in. It also looks very different for every individual or group depending on their seasons of life, etc. It is clearly something that can have some structure, but not so much that the Spirit is quenched. It is also clearly dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit for any fruit to grow.

Friday, July 30, 2010

more thoughts on a life in Christ

Inspired by The Cloud of Unknowing and The Imitation of Christ (Bk III, ch. 4):

Despising the world and leaving it all behind . . . The Cloud of Forgetting . . . to grow in the knowledge of God.

Trusting and following without "knowing" . . . The Cloud of Unknowing . . . the move toward union with God.

The first "step" is disdaining things and relationships of the "world" . . . leaving behind hobbies, pastimes, friends, social structures and more that were/are shallow and materialistic for the "abundant life" in Christ. At first, hard, but increasingly easier as we experience His consolation. For Patti and I, it meant giving up "partying", obsessive athletic pursuits (ultra running, triathlons,etc. and all the time spend training for them), and other such things. Giving up material things, fortunately for us, was easy, as we had always lived fairly simple lives. But, there was clearly a "new life" being formed.

Moving into discipleship and/or spiritual direction and formation: These pursuits include many aspects of being in relationship with one another, and of course with God. Soul care (Anam Chara from the Celtic traditions), accountability, discernment, teaching and healing . . . all those things that Jesus modeled for us in His earthly ministry years.

Soul care - When you toss a pebble of God's grace and mercy into another's pool of tears, you send out waves of healing into their lives, and others as well.

Seek the Lord in the seasons he gives you, trust He will be found, and enjoy His companionship!

obG, PnP

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Longing For God

Dear Faithful Ones,

I have often shared devotional messages, which some of you either frequently or even occasionally decide to read and ponder. I have also recommend many books in addition to God's Holy Word for the edification of your own spirit. I must admit in this season of "retirement" I have rediscovered the joy and wonder of reading, and my appetite has been nothing short of voracious especially for Christian literature of all sorts.

Today, I return to a recommendation to read and meditate on a work titled Longing For God by Gayle Beebe and Richard Foster. I have read this book three times in the past year, and even now am in the process of further absorbing certain portions as Patti and I seek God's guidance in this season of our lives. Some of you may be familiar with Devotional Classics and Spiritual Classics from Renovare? These books were compiled by James Bryan Smith and Richard Foster, and contain a rich collection of the wonderful writings of the ancients (and even some contemporaries) of Christian thought. Longing For God takes these classics in a further direction toward spiritual formation for each of us who desires to follow Christ. Beebe presents the saints and their God-given insights to us, followed by Foster's reflections. I love the way the book is organized and the introductions to each stream or path of spirituality. For those who like to preview books, I suggest using this link to view contents, excerpts, etc. and also read reviews -

I often try to include excerpts in my messages but I hesitate to do that here, as I really don't want to keep you from discovering what God may desire to speak to you from the whole of this work. I have had my "favorites" from time to time throughout the book, and they seem to change with each reading or purpose of God? I do recommend reading and pondering all the introductions to each section, as well as the general introduction and the conclusion to the book. Currently, I am immersed in "Path One" and "Path Five", particularly Augustine & Bernard and Fox & Wesley, but I always find myself referring to other sections as I do so. The integration or interdependence of all the paths become clearer with each reading and meditation. Rather than providing a "canned" program or format for the Christian life, Longing leads you into a search (journey) toward God. I believe each person will find their own path as they read and ponder the journeys of others who have gone before. Steeped in Scripture, Longing will have you always with Bible at the ready so you can see verses illuminated in a new (old?) refreshing light. You may even find yourself led to read the entire work of a particular author, where an excerpt really stimulated your spirit and heart?

For me personally, Longing sits alongside my Bible, Celtic Daily Prayer (my devotional), my journal and The Imitation of Christ in my "quiet time corner". I believe you too may find it indispensable to your own journey along The Narrow Road, the Good Red Road of Christ Jesus.

only by Grace,


Saturday, July 24, 2010

PnP - a new direction???

Lately, through prayer (listening), circumstances and other brothers and sisters in Christ, it feels like God may be moving us in a new direction? We continue to pray and listen, yielding our hearts and minds to the Spirit, and trying as best we can to follow one step at a time.

Our "ministry" has always seemed like a "soul care" type of thing, coming alongside others and "speaking" God's love and grace into their lives, expecting the Spirit to do whatever the Father has in mind. Our trials and struggles, both individually and together, have been good preparation for soul care, not to mention all the study and training we've been engaged in lately. Then, there have been the struggles of others who are close to us, in which God has allowed us to be His source of mercy and compassion.

We have reacquainted ourselves recently with Dr. Larry Crabb ("Connecting"), and discovered a "path" that seems to lead toward a "healing/spiritual formation ministry". Giving it a name is difficult, as so much "trendiness" is attached to names? It seems more like the early church (up to 300 or 400 A.D.) where soul care, healing, discipleship, etc. were all part of "normal" life as followers of Jesus. For Pat personally, the community of Northumbria seems to come closest to what this may look like in our time? Their "rule" of vulnerability and availability applies equally across all the various "ministry" areas the church in our time seems to identify?

We honestly don't know the "what, how, who, when and where" of any of this, but we do know that God is guiding us . . . there are times of revelation and joy as we take the next step. We also feel this "ministry" will be an equipping ministry, in addition to a "hands on" ministry for us. If that sounds familiar, remember what Jesus did during his three year "ministry"; healing, spiritual transformation, discipleship.

We have talked and prayed about this, and concluded that we are totally inadequate for this! And, we have also concluded that that is just where God wants us. One of our favorite verses, especially as it relates to anything we endeavor to do for the Lord, is 2 Cor. 4:7, the jars of clay passage. Recently, Patti and I were discussing our unworthiness for this "call" on our lives, and we came up with our own little reminder of how unworthy we truly are . . . "dung beetles", that's what we are! Creepy little insects crawling in and out of "poop", but God allows us to make something good out of the poop. (Sorry, I know that may not seem very "religious" to some readers.)

So, we continue to pray daily together and seek His guidance. And this, even as we await the birth of our first grandchild! Seasons, yes seasons, gotta love 'em in the Lord! Can't wait to see what He has in store for us, but sensing it has much to do with "holy listening" and "connecting" with the hearts and souls of others who are "standing next to their own pool of tears." And, in this, the "harvest is plentiful", so workers must be trained and sent out, empowered by the Spirit to do the Lord's work in the fields . . . among the lost and hurting.

Here we are LORD, send us . . . and only by Grace for sure.

Isaiah 6 to Rev. 4:6-11 . . . Kingdm vision

If you find the early verses of Isaiah 6 familiar do not be surprised. For those of us in Christ Jesus these verses of Isaiah 6 now apply . . . see Rev. 4:6-11.

Isaiah 6
Isaiah's Commission
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory."

4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

5 "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

9 He said, "Go and tell this people:
" 'Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'

10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes. [a]
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed."

11 Then I said, "For how long, O Lord?"
And he answered:
"Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,

12 until the LORD has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.

13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land."

Revelation 4:6-11 (New International Version)

6Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. 8Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come." 9Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, 10the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
11"You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being."

"Your Love is a Song"

Can you hear Him singin' His Love to you? Listen to His Hope and trust He is there. Keep those eyes and ears of your heart open, wide open. obG, pat . . . and thanks to Switchfoot.

I hear you breathing in
another day begins

the stars are falling out
my dreams are fading now, fading out

I've been keeping my eyes wide open
I've been keeping my eyes wide open

your love is a symphony
all around me
running through me

your love is a melody
underneath me
running to me

your love is a song

the dawn is fire bright
against the city lights

the clouds are glowing now
the moon is blacking out

I've been keeping my mind wide open
I've been keeping my mind wide open

your love is a song

with my eyes wide open
I've got my eyes wide open
I've been keeping my hopes unbroken

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

God’s seasons of life for all of us:

God blesses us with “seasons” during our lifetime on this earth. Seasons of youth, seasons of marriage or singleness, of parenting or not, of career, of struggle and growth. If we are wise, we will accept our seasons with grace and live into them. If we are given marriage and family, we should, we must, embrace that time and cherish and nurture those relationships. If we are given singleness we must also embrace it and realize the special nature of life with Christ as our “spouse”. There is nothing better than a life in and with Christ, and the more time and focus, the better. But, all in God’s timing (His seasons) and providence.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Northumbria Community & Celtic Daily Prayer

Why Celtic?
Here I stand; and I say a prayer.
Things Celtic are currently very much in fashion - but that was not so much the case when these liturgies were first devised. In order to make sense of the journey, we needed to 'explore the old paths' to find what they could teach us. Often these are neglected in the headlong embrace of everything that is new. The 'old paths' all around us here in Northumbria resound with the start-ling tes¬timony of the remarkable men and women who simply loved God and followed Jesus wherever the Spirit impelled and empowered them to go; they lit a fire in the so-called 'dark ages' that brought warmth, culture, learning and, most of all, faith to vast numbers of people.
As we researched and studied these saints (and the Desert Fathers, who were their spiritual predecessors) we found that many of the lessons they taught gave us hope and coherence on our own journey: that.people matter more than things, and rela¬tionships more than reputation; that prater and action, contempla¬tion and involvement, all belong together. Whilst resisting the temptation to hark back to some mythical 'golden age' (which probably never existed), we have attempted to be true to what we have learned and lived in the shadow of the Northumbrian saints and their teachers. We are not trying to say that these prayers and simple liturgies are similar to anything used in seventh-century Northumbria; but we do hope that the relevance and immediacy of their style reflect the faithful and uncompromising lives of those whose example we attempt to follow. Most of this book is best used on an individual basis or in the context of a small family group.
Some of the prayers, stories and illustrations in this book are very old; others are quite modern. We make no apologies for this mix. If the early Celtic saints (and those whom they taught to follow in similar well-trodden ways of prayer and courageous mis¬sion) have much to say to us in our own generation and culture, then it must be interpreted in a modern idiom where necessary.

The Northumbria Community
God called forth a people; and we responded to His call.
The Northumbria Community in its present form emerged as an expression of the mixed life that embraces both the contemplative and the apostolic in the context of a shared vision and vocation. Historically, Celtic Christian monasticism was noted for its com¬bining of monastery and mission. Ordinary Christian people found ways of weaving disciplines of prayer into their daily life. From the earliest days we were aware of this call to a continuity of purpose which would enable us to help 'rebuild the ancient ruins and raise up the age-old foundations' of our fore-fathers and -mothers in the faith. We were being slowly drawn into a monastic way, but this was a new and different monasticism. Dietrich Bonhoeffer spoke of a similar call when he wrote: 'The renewal of the Church will come from a new type of monasticism which only has in common with the old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon on the Mount. It is high time people banded together to do this.'
This understanding of people united by a common vision was central to our formation as a geographically dispersed Community. In effect two groups came together: the one mainly emphasizing the monastic, contemplative stream; and the other emphasizing the apostolic and the need to take the monastery through mission into the marketplace. The former were represented by the original 'Nether Springs Trust' which was formed to release John and Linda Skinner into establishing this 'new monastic' vision. The latter were Northumbria Ministries, led by Roy Searle, whose vision was to see fires lit all over the ancient kingdom of Northumbria - and to carry the torch of the gospel wherever the Father leads. The merging of the two groups in 1990 formed the Northumbria Community. In our growth and development we have gradually understood that for us this being 'banded together' was expressed in being alone yet together, enriched by our diversity but united in heart by our common commitment to our vows, in which we say 'YES' to Availability and Vulnerability, and in being com¬panions together in Community.
Since the Community is widely dispersed, Community groups have been established, meeting monthly, wherever companions in a local area wish to form one. Inevitably these groups take on a life and form of their own, and each individual contributes to the wide variety of experience and styles of a disparate group of people finding themselves on a journey together.
Friendship and the sharing of stories, music and the arts in general provide the natural means to help us engage with people of all backgrounds and interests in a manner that leaps across the boundaries of church and religion. In recent months we have paid special attention to encouraging those with an interest in story-telling, and to teaching the skills that make it such an effective bridge-building tool.
Our trading company, Cloisters, has a mail order business sell¬ing calligraphic cards, stained-glass ornaments, honey from the Community's beehives and so on, and is developing music and book publishing activities to enable the stories and insights to be passed on to a wider audience. This reflects the desert tradition of 'basket-making' and helps raise funds for the Community.
In carrying out these activities, we are very concerned that the Community does not become institutionalized. The rather anony¬mous, raw and ragged style of the early part of the journey remains a vital part of the Community's ethos as it grows and develops. We aspire to measure ourselves constantly against these words of William Stringfellow, which have long been an inspiration to us:
Dynamic and erratic, spontaneous and radical, audacious and immature, committed if not altogether coherent. Ecumenically open and often experimental; visible here and there, now and then but unsettled institutionally. Almost monastic in nature, but most of all enacting a fearful hope for society.

The Community is rather like a big, sprawling family; gather¬ings are often family reunions! All means are sought to strengthen the bonds between us (and to provide channels of healing where there is dispute).
As these and the other liturgies in this collection were devised, accepted and recorded, they came to be published initially in filo-fax form, with each month's series of Daily Readings being dis¬tributed to subscribers to add into the binder. Somewhat to everybody's surprise, this began to circulate more widely, and the demand led to the publication by HarperCollins first of Celtic Daily Prayer and, subsequently, Celtic Night Prayer. This current book combines the best of both these volumes for the first time, together with other material not included in them. It is our prayer that, whether or not you wish to join us as companions on our journey, you will find material here that will enrich your spiritual life and draw you closer to God.
From the beginning, all the daily prayers (except the Complines) have had sung, as well as spoken, versions; and many of the meditations, and parts of other liturgies, also have musical settings. The sung versions of Celtic Daily Prayer have been made available in high-quality recordings on CD and audiotape. These have played an important part in linking companions together wherever they may be - at home, in an office or in the car driving to work.
The Community Rule of Availability and Vulnerability
I say 'Yes, my Lord' in all the good times, through all the bad times.
In the same way as the liturgies emerged from lives actually lived in community, so has the Community's Rule. It is a response to that insistent question: 'How then shall we live?' It is a call to risky living: it is not a comfortable or easy solution to life's prob¬lems. Whilst we welcome any who wish to walk with us in seeking God, we ask that those who wish to become Companions with us in Community say 'YES' to Availability and Vulnerability as their way of living. This involves availability to God and to others - expressed in a commitment to being alone with God in the cell of our own heart and to being available for hospitality, intercession and mission. Intentional vulnerability is expressed through being teachable in the discipline of prayer, saturation in the Scriptures and being accountable to one another, often through soul friendships. It also means 'embracing the heretical imperative' (challenging assumed truth), being receptive to con¬structive criticism, affirming that relationships matter more than reputation, and living openly among people as 'church without walls'. This is not something to be entered into lightly!

Get the book and start living a daily life in Christ . . . seek the ancient paths that lead you on the Narrow Road.