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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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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Resources for Intentional Communities – The Mistakes We Make

Saturday was community house meeting day. Once a month Kirk and I. And our housemates gather at the local Timmies, take care of any house business, and learn a bit together about intentional community.

This Saturday we discussed the mistakes we’ve made in communities past and present. We talked about the need to “seek to understand” rather than to just jump in and try to correct a situation. We talked about how radical hospitality can be scary as we step beyond our comfort zones and invite people we might formerly avoid into our lives and home.

I shared about my over-responsibility, my tendency to do more than I should. It’s my love language (which is service, if you didn’t already guess) that spins out of control from time to time. But doing for you what you can do for yourself can communicate that I don’t think you can do it, and can be disempowering. And then I do more than I should, and I get tired and cranky. Ask my husband how fun I am to be with when I’m cranky.

Chris Heuertz, in his book Unexpected Gifts, shares with searing honesty about his epic fails in life together. It’s a vital resource for intentional communities, and a great read.

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I read another great blog by Lindsay Hamby this week about the sacrifice involved in intentional community and wanted to share it with you.

Sitting with Jesus, eating that stupid piece of bacon, He showed me that everyday living in this house I am faced with a series of choices: I can pretend that I am entitled to a certain amount of space and quiet – calling on my rights as a member of Western Culture – disregarding the fact that most of the rest of the world shares less space and less food with more people, and forgetting that I actually belong to a Greater Kingdom. I can ignore the prodding in my spirit towards generosity and seek my own provision and comfort. I can fake a smile, hide in my room, and secretly pray for everyone to disappear.

Or I can embrace the tension. I can acknowledge that my discomfort is revealing deeper sin and let it be confronted by love and mercy. I can allow the Holy Spirit to stretch me, to make me more like Jesus. I can look my doubt and fear straight in the face, over and over, a dozen times a day. I can make the most of this crowded season, because the reality is, that without these beautiful human beings all up in my space, I would continue living blissfully unaware of how far I am from true dependence on Jesus.

You can read the rest of it here.

There was a lovely spirit of humility around the table at Timmies as we shared our failings and vulnerabilities. We committed to loving truth telling, and helping one another when we feel weak. I was reminded what a rich experience intentional community is, and how much I love it!

Infused Prayer

This morning as I was munching my breakfast and reading the news, I started to feel God’s Presence on the periphery of my awareness. I set aside my IPad, turned out the lights, lit a candle, and set my heart before Him. I have come to learn that if He initiates a time of communion, it is definitely worthwhile to set everything else aside.

It’s hard to describe these kinds of encounters. The poets have made some attempts:

Ye blessèd creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make; I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival, 40
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss, I feel—I feel it all.

~ William Wordsworth

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

~ John Donne

Thomas Dubay, in his book The Fire Within describes these typed of encounters infused prayer.   And quotes John of the Cross.

Infused contemplation…is a ‘loving awareness of God’…indeed, it becomes a “fire of loving wisdom. The prayer of which we are speaking can in no way be originated, intensified, or prolonged by anything we can do. It is divinely given in its entirety. This is the literal meaning of infused, a word stemming from the Latin infusers, infusium to our in, that which is poured in. John therefore writes of “a tranquil reception of this loving inflow…the touch of burning in the will…the touch of understanding in the intellect…an inflaming of love.

Dubay goes on to say because The Lord makes us aware of His presence in our deep centre through the effects that He produces there, we may say that in these effects of a new knowing-loving-delighting-yearning He Himself is flowing into us and thereby transforming us from glory to glory into His likeness.

A modern day mystic, Misty Edwards, expresses it this way

My first ever blog rant. A Vacation from Vocation?

It’s 7 am.

I look at the clock and groan.

I’m snug in my Nook, nested into my Prayer Chair.

For the last two weeks of my vacation, I’ve spent hours and hours there.

Reading.

Napping.

Praying.

Hiding from people.

Mostly resting.

But it’s my first day back at work.

And internally I’m rebelling leaving the Nook.

Bah, why do I have to go back to work?

Then I pause.

Waitaminit!

At what point did it become work?

Was it when, after twenty years of six day workweeks, I finally made room for weekends with two days off in a row?

Not sure. But I think so.

GOHOP, and my life as an urban monastic is NOT a job.

It’s a vocation.

My Benedictine friends at Mount Saviour Monastery don’t draw such hard and fast lines between at work and at rest, although I’m sure they observe the Sabbath.

I’ve been feeling a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle), pressure to define my work with GOHOP as a job. With a salary. Clear cut times of being on the job, and off the job. Well meaning folks, under the guise of making sure that my lifestyle is balanced, are trying to “help me out” in this way.

I love you guys, and I know you’ve got my best interest at heart.

But here’s the deal.

My life isn’t supposed to be balanced.

It’s supposed to be consecrated.

Set apart.

Given to God and to my neighbours (whether I know them or not), in extravagant ways.

A life poured out.

That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t observe Sabbath, and make sure that I get the rest and refreshment I need to run the race long term.

But it does mean that I need to be vigilant about and set aside what Mike Bickle from the International House of Prayer in Kansas City calls “a professional spirit”.

I don’t do what I do because I have to.

I do it because I GET to.

It’s not a job.

It’s a lifestyle, one that I feel tremendously privileged to be able to take part in.

“Lord, remember David
and all his self- denial.
He swore an oath to the Lord,
he made a vow to the Mighty One of Jacob:
“I will not enter my house
or go to my bed,
I will allow no sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
till I find a place for the Lord,
a dwelling for the Mighty One of Jacob. ~ Psalm 132:1-5

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Spiritual Warfare for Dummies

I woke up in a swirl.

My soul was not at rest. I had made some errors at work that had impacted my team negatively. I felt like communication was going sideways. I felt a bubbling unrest, dis-ease in some of my primary relationships. I felt overtired, undernourished spiritually, and like a spear of discouragement had somehow lodged itself in my psyche.

In other words, I felt spiritual resistance. I was under attack.

We have three enemies, scripture says – the world, the flesh, and the devil. When the famous evangelist D.L Moodie was asked one day, “Who is the biggest obstacle in your ministry?”, his response was, “D.L. Moodie!” That has been my experience as well. My biggest problems are usually caused by…

Well, me, of course.

But the enemy is an opportunist, and loves to wiggle through the chinks in our armour to try and cause irritation and harm. So in the swirl of a spiritual storm, what to do?

I love the simple prescription of Scripture:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double- minded.
Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. ~ James 4:7-10

1. Submit to God. In a word, repent. Where am I part of the problem, in my actions and attitudes? Deal with it before God. Confess it to someone, if you really want to give your sin nature a kick in the teeth.

2. Clean off your side of the street. Is there anyone I have harmed? Go to them. Quickly. Ask for forgiveness.

3. Then resist the devil. Simply. Authoritatively. If you’ve done the first two steps, then any legal ground the enemy may have to harass you is gone. You will find that mountains shrink back down to molehills pretty darn quick. The fog lifts. You can see the sun.

Often when I don’t see breakthrough, its because I have tried to shortcut the process, and have not done steps one and two before wading into the fray. I have to remember that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. The most powerful warfare stance is the bent knee and the contrite heart.

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Warning and Disclaimer! This is a Dangerous Prayer! Pray at Your own Risk…

I’ve got a Lazy Boy chair.  I love it!  Nothing better than putting up my feet after a day’s work and settling into it’s comfy goodness.

It’s a family tradition.  My dad has one too, and more often than not he can be found wrapped in it’s leathery embrace as he reads, meditates or watches his favorite programs.

I associate my Grandfather so strongly with his Lazy Boy, that after he passed away,  instead of going to the cemetery to visit his gravesite, I would just lovingly rub the arm of his Lazy Boy chair in his memory and say “Hi Grandpa”.

I love Lazy Boys!  They’re sooo comfortable!

However, Paul likely didn’t have Lazy Boys in mind when he wrote of “the God of all comfort.”

I believe the spiritual boredom many of us struggle with here in the West finds it’s roots in the Cult of (worship of) Comfort.  And as we nestle into a safe, insulated expression and exploration of our comfy faith we miss the blessing of joining God’s grand adventure.

Recently I spoke at a local church about how to overcome spiritual boredom and reclaim a sense of adventure in our walk with God.  You can listen to it if you like at the link below:

Defeating Spiritual Boredom

During the sermon I shared a link that I love from the movie Wall-ee that provides some wonderful social commentary.

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I ended with a prayer of repentance and renunciation of the Cult of Comfort.  Warning and Disclaimer!  This is a dangerous prayer, so pray at your own risk….

Heavenly Father,

We renounce the Cult of Comfort in all of it’s guises.

Forgive us for our consumerist approach to church, where we shop around to find a community of faith that meets our needs, and move on to another when we feel uncomfortable.

Forgive us for creating a circle around us of people who are like us, for gathering in homogenous groupings and excluding those who are different than us or who make us feel uncomfortable.

Forgive us for the individualization of our religious experience, for making our relationship with you all about us and not about the larger covenant community of the church and our communities where we live.

Forgive us for our adherence to false doctrines of safety, where we believe that nothing bad should happen to us if we are following and obeying you.

Forgive us for our over commitment to bricks and mortar and the creation of a comfy space to gather and our under commitment to sharing our resources with those in need.

Forgive us for our spiritual immaturity, for our dislike of being challenged, stretched and made uncomfortable by Biblical teaching designed for our growth.

Forgive us for our demandingness and entitlement, for the way we believe that the church owes us, the pastor owes us, and God, you owe us …… (fill in your own blank).

Forgive us for the ways we have confused the American/Canadian Dream with the Kingdom of God, and for the ways we have exported that confusion abroad to other nations.

Lord, may we have the courage to shed our cultural idolatry.  Father you comfort the afflicted and You afflict the comfortable.  We welcome you to afflict us where You see fit, knowing that you discipline the ones you love, the sons (and daughters) in whom You delight.  Conform us into Your image and give us the courage to carry our cross daily and to live lives where we give ourselves away, the way that Your Son did.

In the name of your Son Jesus, who we proclaim not only as Saviour, but Lord of our lives.

Amen

***this blog was written from the comfort of my Lazy Boy chair (grin)