Drafting a Rule of Life

I’m in the process of coming up with a personal Rule of Life.

A Rule, you say? What is that?

A Rule is a set of commitments an practices that monastics have, through the ages, set in place to help shape their individual and communal lives. The most famous of these is the Rule of St. Benedict, which has shaped monasticism for hundreds of years, and presently is being explored by new monastics of all stripes.

The idea of a Rule, as Steven Covey would say, is to “begin with the end in mind”. What is the desired outcome? What do I want to grow towards?

That’s where I pull out my handy dandy mission statement, that I formulated carefully and prayerfully many years ago.

My life will be characterized by the presence, the personality, and the purposes of God.

I love how I put WILL in there, hehe. A bold declaration of faith for something that without the grace of God, I absolutely cannot achieve.

So if that is the end, what are the train tracks that will get me there? Spiritual disciples, says Richard Foster, are a means to grace. It is through these practices that we make space in our life for God to do the things we cannot, in and through us. So I began by actually looking at what practices were already present in my life. Here is what I came up with so far.

– 2 days off a week, in a row. One of them being a Sabbath, a day of rest, communion with God and my family. I don’t always get 2, but I always take at least one day of rest. And in rest I aim for re-creation, not vacate-ion (more about that in an upcoming blog).

– early morning with the Lord. I’m a morning person, so it makes sense to me to give Him my best time of day. Time varies as to how soon I have to go to work, but it’s usually 1-2 hours.

– daily devotional reading. Listening with my heart, ready to be transformed.

– daily journaling. I always write three pages a day in my journal. Prayers, thoughts, recording things God says to me, looking back over the previous day to see where I saw God at work.

– attending to the song in my spirit when I wake up in the morning, and making it my breathing prayer for the day. For quite some time now, years even, I’ve woken up with the snatch of a song in my heart. If I spend time on it, and linger on it, it becomes a place of communion with Jesus. Today the chorus is “let heaven come”. Not sure exactly what is happening, but my best guess is that the Holy Spirit inside me is always worshipping and interceding, and is inviting me to join Him.

– in my morning times I take 5-30 minutes (depending on how much time is available and on my level of distractibility) in silent Christian meditation. Quietly setting my soul before him, most often meditating on a scripture passage.

– accountability. I meet with my pastor one on one every month, and my spiritual director as well. It’s a great place to confess sin and explore heart dynamics that nurture or quench the life of the Spirit inside me. Also Kirk and I, from the beginning of our marriage, have had a good natured competition to see who can repent first when we wrong each other.

– weekly puttering. As I’ve blogged before, I count puttering as a spiritual discipline. There is something deeply good and soul clarifying about working in solitude and quietly with your hands. Gardening, baking, cooking and cleaning are my favorite puttering choices.

– generosity. Giving freely and sometimes extravagantly, if we are feeling brave.

– gratitude, honesty, and fidelity. I want to be grateful, not grumbling. I want to tell the truth, and I want to keep committments.

Anyways, that’s my first draft. I will continue to work on it, and take it to my pastor and spiritual director to get their feedback as well.

The bottom line is, I want my life to be structured in such a way to put me in the path of oncoming grace. And as a leader of a prayer community, I have a responsibility not only to myself, but also to my community, to allow God to conform me into the image of His Son, and to shape me into a House of Prayer.

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Your Voice is Sweet, and Your Face is Lovely

A wise man once said to me, “put us in the right situation, and we are all insecure!”

My right situation?

I found myself teaching at Bob Ekblad’s ministry, Tierra Nueva in Washington State.  After his visit with us in January, Bob invited me to come visit next time I was on the West Coast, and teach his team about intercessory prayer.  I really wanted Bob to meet Aaron White, the leader of the 614 community in Vancouver, our sister prayer and missions community through 24/7 prayer, so I invited Aaron along for the ride.

“Sure!” he said.

Which meant when it was time to teach, I had to teach in front of him.  And Bob.  Both of whom I considered vastly superior in intellect, gifting, and experience.  Both of whom had been my teachers, and who had shaped my growth and spiritual formation in significant ways.

Insecure?

You bet I was!

So I gave myself a talking to.

“Self, you need to get over yourself!  It’s not about you!”

Not massively inspiring.

Fortunately, Jesus gave me a talking to as well.

“Jill, let me see your face, let me hear your voice.  Your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.”

So I let Him hear my voice.  I shared my story, and tried to be a faithful witness to what He’s done in my life and in GOHOP.

A few days later I found out that I had to speak at the House of Prayer National Summit.

In front of Kirk Bennett, a senior leader from the House of Prayer in Kansas City.

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Whom I considered vastly superior in intellect, revelation, gifting and experience.  Who had been my teacher, and who had shaped my growth and spiritual formation in significant ways.

You would think because of the revelation I had the week before, I would have felt bold and confident!

Aaaaaaaaand?

Nope, not one bit.

Insecure?

You bet.

I also felt insecure because GOHOP is a mutant House of Prayer.  We’ve grafted in DNA from several prayer streams, including Benedictine spirituality and the 24/7 Prayer.com folks.  Which means that we don’t look like a typical (is there such a thing?) “HOP”, and I don’t sound like a typical HOP leader (Not sure there’s such a thing as that either).  Did I have anything relevant to say even?

Fortunately, Jesus gave me a talking to again.

“Jill, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely!”

My heart was re-oriented.  Away from self consciousness and insecurity.

He wanted to hear my voice.

So up on the platform I spoke to Him.  As my offering, my obedience, and my worship.

And He released this amazing, supernatural sweetness in our midst.

His voice changes everything.  I love His kindness…..  His tender invitations invigorate our hearts.

 

Report on Canadian HOP Leaders Gathering from Guest Blogger Bryan Neisteter

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I’ve just gotten back from Winnipeg, where we had a gathering of House of Prayer/Prayer Community leaders from across Canada.  I was going to write a report on it, but then my friend Bryan wrote a fantastic one, so I think you should just read his instead.

From the Ends of the Earth We Hear Singing: Thoughts on the Prayer Movement in Canada

From Thursday to Saturday of this past week I was a part of the Canadian Prayer Leader’s Summit held at Sanctuary House of Prayer in Winnipeg. About 30 prayer community/House of Prayer (HOP) leaders from around Canada joined together to be empowered, encouraged and to build relationships with each other, and it really was a great experience. I knew there were many HOPs in Canada, but had met very few people from outside of our little sphere at Sanctuary House of Prayer in Winnipeg. There were many houses of prayer that weren’t able to be represented, but I was so encouraged to see so many who are labouring for the same purpose, to release worship into the heavens across our nation and to see cities, regions, and ultimately our nation transformed by the power of God.

Something truly remarkable is happening in Canada right now. The Lord is putting His hand on men and women across this country — often completely independent of each other at the start —  and placing in them a burning desire to see night and day worship established in their region. I’m not sure that something like this has ever happened in the history of our nation.
Right now we are seeing many Houses of Prayer in their early days — Greater Ontario House of Prayer would be the oldest in this particular stream of the prayer movement at 12 years. Many of these HOPs are small, many don’t have their own buildings and are using churches with free space or anything else they can find to begin to release worship to heaven. Others have started and then stopped but in their place more are popping up — something bigger is going on.
I believe the Bible prophesies an end-time worship movement. In Isaiah 24, a chapter about the Day of the Lord and the shakings on the earth in the last days, we see one of these prophecies released right in the midst of it:

“They raise their voices, they shout for joy; from the west they acclaim the Lord’s majesty. Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; exalt the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. From the ends of the earth we hear singing: “Glory to the Righteous One” (v. 14-16a).

This passage is clearly highlighting a singing and worshipping Bride in the midst of the darkest days the planet has ever seen.

Malachi says this:

“My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations.” (1:11)

Incense in Scripture is associated with both worship and prayer — and I believe when Malachi says that this is going to be released across the nations it is more than just people converting to Christianity — I believe He is talking about people who are wholehearted lovers of God, and that throughout the nations praise and worship will arise before His throne.

More than having a few Bible verses for it, though, I’m seeing it with my eyes. Right now God is doing something unprecedented across the nations. Day and Night prayer ministries, Houses of Prayer, and Praying Churches are arising in a way that has never been seen, and it is happening in our nation as well. We are at the early stages, but I believe that something bigger is going on in our nation than we even understand right now.

Although there are several Houses of Prayer over 5 years old, I felt in my heart that what happened this weekend was actually the beginning of something. It doesn’t look glamorous right now. There’s a lot of people putting in a lot of hours and making big sacrifices to be before God in prayer rooms that are often mostly empty, but there is something bigger going on than what we can see with our eyes.

And so in this hour we ask Lord, establish your House as a House of Prayer for all nations. I ask that in the nation of Canada you would raise up a symphony of worship and prayer, from the north to the south, from the east, to the west. Raise up singers and musicians, raise up intercessors, raise up a people who are lovesick for you who would not cease to cry out until you split the sky and return. Release buildings, release finances and release grace from sea to sea, in Jesus’ name.

Bryan Blogs at http://sendyourfire.blogspot.ca/ so make sure you check out his other writings about revival and the prayer movement!

 

Are You a Tree or Are You a Bird? Conversations with David Janzen

Last night I was at Grandview Calvary Baptist Church meeting with David Janzen and various intentional community practitioners from downtown Vancouver. We had representatives from Servants, 614 Community, Catholic Workers, Grandview, and L’Arche.

” David,” I said, shaking his hand. “I met you in Toronto. Likely I will just follow you all over North America.” I grinned. He grinned back.

Our conversation skipped along the surface of intentional community issues, like a rock skipping across the water. It was fascinating and encouraging to see how common many of our experiences (and struggles) were.

One topic that came up was stability.

“An analogy that helps us understand stability, community, and the kingdom, is the analogy of the mustard seed. It’s small, the size of a conversation, a longing. But you put it in the ground and it grows, and the birds can land and nest. It’s like that with our communities. Trees, branches, birds, all in one community. The tree has taken a vow of stability.  The birds haven’t.  Sometimes the birds eat the leaves and complain there is no shade.” Again he grins, and we laugh.

“Birds take the seeds elsewhere.  They poop on and fertilize the ground. The birds bless the tree, the tree blesses the birds.”

“Wherever I share this, people know right away, whether they are a tree or a bird.”

Kirk and I are trees. We know we have been called to put down roots in the community for the long haul. City transformation is measured in decades, not in mere years, and we want to be around long term to see God’s story for Hamilton unfold.

What are you? A tree or a bird? Both bless each other. Both have a role to play in the cultivation of God’s purposes.

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More on Soaking Prayer

I’m in the Downtown East Side now, in Vancouver. I come here each year on pilgrimage. I sleep on Aaron and Cherie’s couch and let the life of their intentional community wash over me (there’s 13 staying at the house right now, not including me and the bunnies). I watch, help out where I can, and learn.

Aaron and Cherie have a special gift to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Every time I’m here I get stretched in unexpected directions. This morning I shared some stories on prayer at a local rehab centre. After that, Aaron led us all in a time of soaking prayer, pretty much the same as yesterday’s prayer at Tierra Nueva.

The room was full of guys in various stages of recovery. Some Christians, some died-in-the-wool atheists, some agnostic philosophers. We all listened in silence to a worship song. Afterwards, several of them shared God encounters, revelations and insights. I was amazed at how much God did in the short time, revealing Himself and bringing freedom to hearts.

Wow, God did that all by Himself?

And while were talking about contemplative prayer, we also did some gardening, which is one of my favorite contemplative activities…

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Tierra Nueva

Yesterday my friend Aaron White, and I went on pilgrimage to Tierra Nueva, the ministry founded by Bob and Gracie Ekblad, on the west coast in Burlington, Washington.

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Bob and Gracie lead an interesting fusion of ministries which include recovery homes, social enterprise, and jail ministry. After their week with us in January, they invited me to come down and speak to their staff about intercessory prayer.

I love that this passionate group of social activists started their staff meeting with a good 15-20 minutes of soaking prayer. They sit quietly in a posture of receiving while worship music plays and the team leaders quietly move about from person to peron, praying for them. Making space for Jesus, inviting Him to move in each heart.

I’m constantly thinking about spiritual rhythms that create sustainability for justice workers. Too often in Hamilton we see folks burning out under the weight of their responsibilities and the challenges implicit in front line urban missions.

So is it a waste of time to do soaking prayer in staff meetings? What happens when we make space for God, and acknowledge that we don’t have the answers and the inner resources we need for the job at hand?