Seasons Changing

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Its summer. Finally! My tomatoes are growing, and Kirk is industriously expanding our garden beds. I’ve pruned my roses, just like my mother taught me, and I’m looking forward to the flourishing of new growth.

I (Jill) am in a bit of a change of season as well, as it pertains to my role with GOHOP. Over the last few years, God has assembled a “dream team,” a skilled and passionate cohort of leaders who long to see water levels of prayer rise across the city and justice roll like a mighty river on its streets.

Consequently, I find myself shifting into a more “Executive Director” type role, where the team is carrying much of the responsibility for GOHOP, and I serve them and make sure they have what they need. I get to spend more time developing strategic partnerships and using my “schmooze anointing” (as Kirk calls it), increasing our organizational capacities, leadership development, strategic planning and exploring the “growth edges” of where God is at work in GOHOP and in the city. I’m finding it very stimulating and exciting, and have the sense of “firing on all cylinders” in a way I haven’t experienced at work before. All that, my regular blogging on prayer, mission and justice at http://www.gohopchick.wordpress.com and making sure that I get several hours of prayer daily is keeping me happily occupied.

In addition, I have been increasingly stepping into a role of bringing encouragement and resource to other prayer community leaders. I have found that there is a felt need for someone outside your community, who “gets” what a House of Prayer or Urban Monastery is about and can understand the dynamics. A “soul friend” of sorts to communities and their leaders. Mostly I listen, pray, and sometimes help in discernment processes. Always I feel as enriched by the encounter as the one(s) I’m meeting with.

Also, in September I start school! I’ve been accepted into a part time leadership development program called “The Transforming Community”, and over the next 2 years I will be commuting to Chicago for a series of 9 leadership retreats, and will have distance learning in between.

Master and Commander of Spaghetti
Kirk continues to enjoy chef-ing and hosting our Spaghetti Tuesday nights, serving at the Salvation Army Soup truck, and web developing. He’s counting down the days until Prayer Truck – his favorite time of year! We had fun as a couple going on two ministry trips together – to the Stockbridge Boiler Room in Grand Rapids Michigan, and then up to the Quebec House of Prayer in Sherbrooke, stopping at many Houses of Prayer on the way!

Resourcing the Movement
I (Jill) was trying to think about how we would finance the increased expenses around my going to school and travelling more for work. Should I get a part time job? So I asked the Lord for $400 worth of speaking engagements each month, and so far He has answered! Let me know if you would like me to come teach about prayer, mission, justice, intentional community, spiritual formation, or radical hospitality.

First Day of the Prayer Truck

Prayer Truck started yesterday at 7 am!

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We chose the theme “Beautiful Things” after a Michael Gungor song that we’ve been singing over the city for several years. One line in particular really strikes us…

all around, life is springing up from this old ground, out of chaos life is being found in You“. We are seeing this in Hamilton, and want to continue to pray it into being!

Before I had been there an hour, people were coming by to pray.

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Maddi, one of the Rock youth, and one of the creators of the Prayer Truck this year, thought the truck was very relaxing…

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Several have already written their prayers on the walls..

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At one point, a woman in a minivan full of children, drove by and yelled out of her window, “I need prayer! I need prayer!”

Don’t we all?

Later on, after my shift, I saw evidence on Facebook that things were going strong at the truck.

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At 10 pm I popped over to the truck to drop something off. It was jammed full of young people, and my husband Kirk was ministering to someone on the sidewalk.

A full and fruitful first day! Looking forward to the rest of the month! You can just pop by and pray, or sign up for an hour in the truck at http://www.24-7prayer.com/signup/0521a0

Obed House of Prayer in Victoria, B.C.

I first met Mary and Doug at the National HOP Summit in Winnipeg.

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“We’ve just been appointed Directors of the Obed House of Prayer. We’ve been HOP Directors now for about a week!”

“Might as well jump off the deep end,” I grinned.

We hit it off right away. Even liked the same books!

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Red Moon Rising just wrecked us, and set us on the path to the House of Prayer.”

It made sense then, when I next visited the west coast, to go visit the Obed House of Prayer in Victoria.

I spent the afternoon on the beach with Mary and Doug, praying, chatting about all things House of Prayer, watching the curious seal that kept swimming by to investigate us, and telling bad seal puns. “It’s God’s seal of approval!”

Later in the evening, we went to their prayer facility on, wait for it…

Obed street.

There I met other members of the community.

There was Jeremy, with a cherubic grin, and hair buzzed into a Mohawk. He is a frontline street worker, bringing food and the presence of Jesus to the transient and gang related youth in the city.

I met Stuart, a local pastor who had given over his sanctuary for Obed’s use all week long. He and several members of Obed demonstrate their love for Jesus by serving the city and cleaning out the houses of local hoarders. A job that the city couldn’t afford to do, and couldn’t find anyone to do. I heard stories of them climbing over four foot walls of garbage, cleaning inches of sludge off bathroom floors, and making a birthday cakes for one of their clients.

After coffee, strawberries and conversation, someone pulled out a guitar and we got down to business.

Almost immediately, the sweetness of His presence descended on us.

They weren’t in a rush, but just lingered quietly in His presence. Hushed and reverent. As a community, they had a tender sensitive posture towards The Lord. Loving Him and knowing they are loved by Him. They were as equally open and tender hearted to me as well, making me feel very loved and welcome.

The Biblical meaning of the word Obed is worship and service.

They are, in my estimation, aptly named. And I look forward to a long friendship.

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Avoiding the Potholes: Advice for the New Monastic and House of Prayer Movement

I’m off to Vancouver again!  This time, I’m attending a three day retreat for practitioners, theologians, and writers in the New Monastic movement, many of whom I have never met before.  In preparation for the meeting, I’m reading some of their books so I will have a sense of the conversation to date.

I’m really enjoying Seek the Silences with Thomas Merton: Reflections on Identity, Community, and Transformative Action by Charles Ringma.

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I find Merton a bit lofty and hard to understand, but Ringma with his Reformed sensibilities brings him down into my orbit.  The book is comprised of short reflections on Merton’s teaching, and has become a lovely addition to my daily quiet time.

Another book I read was Living Faithfully in a Fragmented Word by Jonathan R. Wilson.

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Wilson is very much an academic, and at points I thought my little brain might explode, but I found some of his conclusions at the end of the book easier to grasp.

Wilson outlines some potential potholes – dangers and hazards for the New Monastic (I jumble the House of Prayer movement in with this, and feel like they apply equally to us as HOPs) movement.  Here they are in bite sized chunks:

1.  Communal Egotism – it could be very tempting for us as prayer and justice communities, to think that we are God’s gift to the church and to the world.  In one sense, we have to live as a prophetic witness in lifestyles radically reoriented to prayer, mission and justice, but we need to do so in meekness, bringing our egos to the cross.

2.  Utopianism – Bonhoeffer comments that idealism is the enemy of community.  We think that somehow we can get things right where the church has got it wrong.  The reality is that the close sharing of life in communities is very challenging.  We can hide our sin when aloof to one another, but when we live in deep community we are confronted with it at every turn.

3.  Romanticism – we can look back at the history of the prayer movement or monasticism with rose colored glasses, and miss the reality that within them there was mess, controversy, and many practices that did not survive the test of time.  We must not be daunted by the messiness and uncertainty of following the Holy Spirit into a new thing.  We must not sugar coat or romanticize the struggle.

4.  Utilitarianism – we can fall into the error of thinking that our way of life is a useful way to live in a fragmented world.  This is not a way to “make our lives better”, says Wilson.  This is a way to form life faithful to the gospel.

5.  Pelagianism – we can think that the formation and faithfulness of our communities “depends upon human ability and effort to  the exclusion of God’s grace.”  Symptoms of this include anxiety, blaming, resentment, overwork, Sabbath breaking, etc.

The advantage of so many having gone before us in the New Monastic/House of Prayer movement, is that we have the blessing of being able to learn from their known failure paths.  We might forge some new ones of our own (eeek), but at least we have been informed and enriched by their journey.