On Pilgrimage

Today I leave for two weeks in Germany and Austria.  I’m landing in Dresden, meeting my daughter and six others of our GOHOP community, and then we are hopping on a train to Herrnhut, Germany.  Tomorrow night I will be sleeping in the Moravian Guest House and learning first hand all about the 100 year prayer meeting Zinzendorf and the Moravians launched in the 1700s that started the first Protestant missions movement in history.

After a few days there we journey to Salzburg, Austria, where we will be connecting with a Catholic 24-7 Community, and helping them with the Syrian refugees that they are welcoming and serving.  I have no idea what to expect at all, except that I’m going to learn.  A lot.  And likely be very humbled in the process.

Then it’s on to Vienna, where I am joining my 24-7 Boiler Room Network Team for a couple days of strategizing how we can serve this growing movement of prayer communities.  And finally, I will join about 1000 pilgrims who will have gathered from the far flung corners of the globe to celebrate 24-7’s 15th birthday and our semi annual Global Gathering.

Please pray for me, for Hannah, and for the 9 other members of the GOHOP community as we travel and serve.  Many of us are teaching at the Gathering, so we are excited not only to learn, but also share the stories of what God is doing in Hamilton.

Im going to try and break my writing dry spell, and to blog each day of my journey – so welcome to the pilgrimage!

Feast for the Senses

I just got back from a few days of retreat with the Transforming Community in Chicago.  This retreat we learned about the spiritual practice of Embodiment.  Seeing the body as sacred.  Being present to our bodies, caring for our bodies.  Exploring what it means for the body to be a place of encounter with God.  One of our exercises was to go on a prayer walk, so one morning in the wee hours I took a brisk stroll around the lake at the retreat centre.

This is the secret passageway to the lake walk
This is the secret passageway to the lake walk

The air was heavy and humid.  The silence was deep.  The beauty was astounding.

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There was a very interesting juxtaposition of wilderness and stone bridges with pillars.  Fascinating and lovely.

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The deer were plentiful, curious, and very tame!

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My body invigorated by walking.  My spirit nurtured by silence.  My soul nourished by beauty.

God present with me in all of it.

Communion (A Poem)

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I drop into silence

like the bottom of a well.

Sit in the darkness

and let my eyes adjust.

I see the etchings

the scratches

of my ancestors.

Hieroglyphics shimmer

Stories of long ago.

My fingers trace the ridges of their narrative.

My palms feel the heat

that radiates and pulses.

Their stories enter my skin.

Our hearts thrum together

The ancient rhythm

In the shadows of the earth.

Quebec House of Prayer – Even the Sparrow finds a Place by Your Altar

Tanya Allatt, with her husband Brian, runs the Quebec House of Prayer.  She posted this picture on Facebook yesterday.

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A robin had built a nest on the wreath on the front door of her home.

“She stays with her eggs all night. Then, in the morning, I knock gently to let her know that I need to let my chicks out the door for school.” wrote Tanya, “She is very obliging.”

The prayer room at QHOP has another nest, for another birdie.

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A local missionary contracted a very painful chronic virus while overseas, and is now convalescing at QHOP.  She is staying at their motel.  They care for her.  When her pain abates enough to leave her bed, they wheel her over to the prayer room where she can lie down and rest in the presence of the Lord.  The sparrow with the broken wing has a place by the altar.

Waitaminit, did you say motel?  A House of Prayer has a motel?

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Yes, last year QHOP purchased the motel on the adjoining property.  They run it as a standard motel, and suites are available for pilgrims to the House of Prayer.  As they took it over and learned how to run it, they have learned a lot about extending hospitality.

“At QHOP we host the Presence of the Lord.  Asking ourselves, what makes the Holy Spirit comfortable here?  What welcomes His presence here among us?” muses Tanya, “And we also host the people of the Lord.  What makes the House of Prayer a welcoming, safe place for pilgrims?”

Robins, sparrows, pilgrims, all finding a place by the altar of the Lord in Sherbrooke Quebec.

The Fish with Fresh Eyes

Recently I heard a great story about three fish.

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One day two fish were swimming in the ocean.  A third fish swam up to them and gurgled “the water is lovely today, isn’t it?”

They smiled and nodded and the third fish swam on.  When it was out of sight, they turned to one another and asked,

“What’s water?”

Its easy to be unaware of our atmosphere, our surroundings, because we are immersed in it every day.  Changes in our spirits and in our communities often happen very slowly, in very small increments.  I’ve often said to city reachers that city transformation is not measured in months or years, but in decades.  Change takes time, and can be imperceptible as it happens.

That is why it is so valuable to have someone come visit from the outside, look at everything with a fresh set of eyes, and tell you what they see.

Andy Freemen, author of Punk Monk, did just that during the last week.  He came, he saw, and he shared with us what he saw God doing in our midst.  It was deeply encouraging and really strengthened the hearts of our team.  We feel energized to dig more deeply into the work that God has for us here in Hamilton, confident that God is at moving wonderfully amongst us.

Tomorrow, I get to do just the same thing that Andy did.  I’m flying to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit my friend Lisa Koons, who runs 24/7 Charlotte.

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Joined by USA 24-7 Leaders Joe Steinke and Dave Powers, we are going to hang out with her and her prayer community.

We’re gonna tell her how great the water is.  I can’t wait!

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.