Review of The Sacred Year, by Michael Yankoski

In my quest to make more space for God in my life, I’ve read books on spiritual disciplines.

Lots of them.

Lots and lots, actually.

Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Ruth Haley Barton, Thomas Merton, Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove, and Charles Ringma have all shaped my theology and practice.

So when my new friend Michael asked me to review and advanced copy of his new book, The Sacred Year, I was honoured to have been asked, eager to see what he would add to what is already a rich conversation.

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Working as I do with emergent leaders in our city, most of whom are in their 20’s and early 30’s, I am always on the lookout for resources that can fuel their heart for the Person and the mission of Jesus.  This is one such resource, and I plan to use it for our New Monastic Internships and as a key equipping tool for local churches.

Michael is a lyrical writer.  With his wit and candour, he draws you into his journey to explore the deeper life.  He is a thoughtful practitioner, not a mere theorist, and many of his practices (some of them a little zany, truth be told) took him and will take his readers out of their comfort zones and into new spiritual territory.  He is honest.  He is courageous.  He is contagious.

This book is the spiritual journey of everyman.  It is easy for us to elevate the “professional pray-ers” or the “vocational mystics”, our modern day Desert Fathers and Mothers, and disqualify ourselves from a deeper life of devotion and obedience to Christ.  But Michael is just a regular guy, like the rest of us.  If Michael can do it, I can do it.  You can do it.

In our context here in Hamilton we are seeing lifestyles of prayer, mission and justice becoming more prevalent – normal Christian living, if you will.  Michael lives that lifestyle and calls others to join him in a way that is compelling and infectious.  

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The book isn’t out yet, but you don’t have to wait long!  You can pre-order here or read more about it at www.thesacredyear.com.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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?

12 Marks of a New Monasticism

The other day I was asked to come share at Redeemer University about what the face of New Monasticism looks like in Hamilton. It’s can be tricky trying to describe what GOHOP is and does. Prayer is at the heart, of course, but there is so much more going on than what happens in the prayer room.

A few years ago, Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson Hartgrove and a bunch of other New Monastics gathered and produced a document that outlined common themes and practices that they saw emerging in the House of Prayer/New Monastic movement. They called this the 12 Marks of a New Monasticism, and they expanded on it in the book entitled School(s) for Conversion: the 12 Marks of Mew Monasticism

Here’s what they are:

1) Relocation to the abandoned places of Empire.

2) Sharing economic resources with fellow community members and the needy among us.

3) Hospitality to the stranger

4) Lament for racial divisions within the church and our communities combined with the active pursuit of a just reconciliation.

5) Humble submission to Christ’s body, the church.

6) Intentional formation in the way of Christ and the rule of the community along the lines of the old novitiate.

7) Nurturing common life among members of intentional community.

8) Support for celibate singles alongside monogamous married couples and their children.

9) Geographical proximity to community members who share a common rule of life.

10) Care for the plot of God’s earth given to us along with support of our local economies.

11) Peacemaking in the midst of violence and conflict resolution within communities along the lines of Matthew 18.

12) Commitment to a disciplined contemplative life.

I used these 12 Marks to map out the life and ethos of GOHOP. We don’t practice all 12, for many of the marks, our practice is in it’s infancy, is very experimental and undeveloped. But I’ve found that it is a framework that is helpful to broaden people’s understanding of our House of Prayer.

Over the next month I will expand on each of the marks that we are presently practicing, and paint a picture for you of our life together.

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Crossing the Law

I haven’t broken the law lately.

And apart from occasional speeding on the highway and a couple of shoplifted candy bars in my teens, I’ve been a pretty law abiding citizen. As a child I was that kid. You know, the one who cozied up to the teachers, put her hand up to answer the questions in class, and not only obeyed all the rules, but made sure that you all obeyed them as well. I loved the law, and I loved being on the right side of it.

However, I find Jesus the law breaker, a compelling figure.

The laws of the ruling religious elite of his day created inequity of power and the exclusion and marginalization of the vulnerable.

Jesus broke the law when he touched the leper.

When he fraternized with sinners and tax collectors.

When he permitted women of ill repute to anoint and to kiss him.

When he healed on the Sabbath.

When he confronted the big business of organized religion and literally turned the tables on it in the temple.

These infractions of the law were so grievous to the ruling class that they engineered his arrest, trial, and execution.

What does it look like for us to follow in His steps? To adopt His preferential treatment of those on the margins? To address the systems of the elite that rob the vulnerable of their voice and their power? To stand in the face of consumerism, productivity, classism and insularism? How can we live in resistance to the empire? How can we embrace Jesus’ path of nonviolent suffering love?

I love the irony at the end of the story.

Jesus is executed for breaking the law.

And, breathtakingly, in one final act of lawlessness, He breaks the law of the universe and rises from the grave in resurrection power.

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I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

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True City Conference – Tale of Two Kingdoms Feb 21 & 22

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

“Our churches are figuring out how to collaborate together around mission – we’re pretty good at that part.  What we need from you is help strengthening the prayer piece.”  Dave Witt, the leader of True City, explained.

“Hmmm, you’re probably better at prayer than you think you are.  Maybe you just don’t recognize what your prayer language is.”  I countered.

That was seven years ago, and over the last years we have enjoyed a fruitful partnership.  GOHOP teachers have been invited to teach at True City churches.  I’ve met with leaders on a consultative basis to look at strengthening prayer in their churches.  We are developing emergent leaders from True City churches in our 10 month Studies in New Monasticism Internship.  Many True City folks participate in the Prayer Truck with us each summer.  And together we have mobilized the one, and now two weeks of 24/7 prayer around the annual True City Conference.

This year’s conference is going to be a good one!  Check out the conference video and come join us as we learn, serve and pray together for the good of the city!  I’m helping to lead one of the workshops, which will explore “lifestyles of resistance”.

Two Weeks of 24-7 Prayer for Hamilton – Feb 21 – March 7

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Last year, over 500 people from 76 different churches joined together for 2 weeks of 24/7 prayer for Hamilton.
Join us for two weeks of continuous prayer night and day at the Vine from Feb 21st to March 7th following the True City Conference. The Theme for this year’s conference is “A Tale of Two Kingdoms”. Together we are sharing stories of how the Church (that’s you!) is subverting the empire of the world and welcoming God’s reign in our city.

Imagine this: a space where you can come by yourself or with friends, pour yourself a hot drink, and settle into a small table or a couch in conversation or with a book. Imagine now that it’s a free space, and that it’s open 24 hours a day, for two weeks straight. Enter, The Vine Cafe. If you find a friend in the prayer room (which often happens) or are meeting to pray with your small group, now you can stay and chat without distracting others seeking solace. Just a few feet from the prayer room, you can bring friends in to the space for a drink and to let them check out the space. We’re excited.

We love that people who don’t usually find time for prayer in their schedule feel drawn to the prayer space at the Vine. We want to celebrate this further by introducing a rhythm of common prayer throughout each day. We will be following the daily liturgies from the Northumbria Community at 9am, 12pm, 5pm, and 9pm. Inspired by Celtic Christianity and living with vulnerability and availability. Common prayer will range from five minutes to fifteen, and will be marked by a small bell five minutes beforehand.

If you’re searching for God in a world addicted to noise, distractions, and hurry, open our door and breathe deeply. Find friends. Find peace. Find God.

“I’m in. What’s the next step?”
Sign up at http://www.24-7prayer.com/signup/ca9a0b to fill an hour of prayer by yourself/with a friend/with a group.