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.

Vital Connection

It’s confession time.

I’ve got a bad habit.

I wake up in the morning.  It’s early.  Real early.  I don’t really want to get out of bed yet.  Not ready to face my day.

Reflex kicks in and reach to my bedside table and grab it.

My IPad.  Or my phone.  Whatever is handier.

First I scroll through Facebook.  Then Instagram.  Feedly for the blogs I’m following.  Gmail.  And then the news.  It’s good to be current with news, right?  It feels like a vital connection.

Before I know it, and hour has passed.  I’m replete with information and electronic white noise.

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At night I do it all over again, tucked in with my tech.

And I wonder why I’m not hearing the Lord’s voice the way I used to.

I love what Pastor Abraham has to say about fasting.  “It leaves more room for the Holy Spirit,” he chuckles.

I need to make room in my brain space.  My soul space.

This weekend, I unplug.  Keep my phone off.  Less than 15 minutes of internet each day.  I spend most of the weekend mucking in my garden.  By Sunday night I am pleasantly sore and tired, and my insides feel expansive and clear.

Encouraged, I exile technology from my bedroom.

This morning I wake up early.  Real early.

I don’t want to get out of bed yet, so I just lay there and remind myself of the Lord’s presence.  An old hymn pops into my heart and I hum it quietly to myself.  I think of Psalm 42:8.

By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

I wonder how many of His songs I have missed, swallowed by technological gluttony.  But today I am able to hear it.

Vital connection.

You are Invited

I’m in Sherbrooke, Quebec, with the team of the Quebec House of Prayer.  We are sharing stories of their life together.  “Tell me your juiciest, most QHOPPY moment.”

Lots of tales, many warm tears.  They’re a tender hearted bunch.

What caches my attention is that most of the stories begin with the phrase, “so I received an invitation…”  As I look around the table of dedicated prayer missionaries, I realize that they are all there because they have been invited.  Brian and Tanya, the Directors, reached out to them (usually via Facebook messenger), and asked “would you come join us?”

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Fourteen and half years ago, Kirk and I felt a call to prayer missions.  So we did the only thing we knew to to – we applied to be staff at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.  We auditioned, went down for an interview, and were accepted.  We began to put our affairs in order.  I trained people to replace me at the church, and offloaded my business clients.  But as the time to depart drew near, we started to feel ill at ease.  Something didn’t feel right.  I remember one night, Kirk was pacing back and forth in our bedroom, “If there is a peace of Christ that passes understanding, this isn’t it!”  So discerning that we had made a mistake, we pushed pause, and retreated to the family cottage to pout and to pray.

And while we were there we received an invitation.  A group of pastors who had already been praying together weekly for six years contacted us.  They wanted to see a House of Prayer established in Southern Ontario, and could we come and help?

The rest, as they say, is history.

We received an invitation.

Encouraged by the success of Brian and Tanya’s invitations, I’ve been spending this week asking people to join us.  “Come and play the hand drums in our worship set!  Bring your guitar!  Hey, would you consider joining our staff?”

I’m on a roll, so I thought I would do it on the blog as well.

May I invite you to join us?  For a prayer meeting?  Or an afternoon in the prayer room?  To help out at the Prayer Truck this summer?  Or maybe God is calling you to urban and prayer missions for short term or even vocationally?

You are very welcome to come and visit with us and explore with us this lifestyle given to loving Jesus through prayer, mission and justice.  Drop me a line at jill@gohop.ca if you want to chat about it!

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You’ve been invited.

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.

Join us on the Journey to Easter – 24-7 Lenten Podcasts and the Art of Examen

GOHOP is part of a global prayer organization called www.24-7prayer.com and every Advent and every Lent, they produce a wonderful series of video podcasts that set our hearts on the journey of prayer and following Jesus.  This Lent is no exception.  Today, on Ash Wednesday, 24-7’s Carla Harding invites us on the journey.

You can subscribe to them on iTunes or Youtube, so that you receive them each week through Lent.

24-7 has also published some materials to help you on the journey, and you can get them at http://www.24-7prayer.com/theartofexamen.  I practice the art of Examen daily, and have found it to be a wonderfully enriching spiritual practice.  Will you join me?

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.

 

 

 

 

Attending to His Groaning

Monday night I felt off. Just…off.

Not quite myself.

Something was rattling around inside, like, hmm, how to describe it? Indigestion of the spirit maybe?

“I’ll go to bed early. I’m sure I’ll feel better in the morning.”

Come morning however, it had only intensified. A groaning and rumbling deep inside, like a bear in a cave waking up from hibernation.

Finally, I clued in. I was burden bearing. I’ve written about this before in my blog, here and here.

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I was in the kitchen alone, making pancakes for the house. Mindless work. So I went on pancake autopilot and attended to the groaning.

To His groaning.

I didn’t try to figure it out. I just tuned in to the rumble and sat with the feelings. Grief, pain, sadness. I prayed in the Spirit a bit. The closest I could get to articulating anything was ‘come, Lord Jesus’.

By the time we sat down to eat pancakes, it had passed. Whatever it was, it had been prayed through.

After pancakes, our housemates check in and pray with each other. I told them about my morning groaning, and in our intercession time, they prayed that I would have insight into what it had been about.

I realized though, that I don’t need to know what it is about. My modern, Western mind would like to be able to articulate and categorize things. But sometimes there are groans too deep for words, and sometimes it is enough to attend to the murmerings of the Holy Spirit, deep within.

Catholics classify prayer as kataphatic or apophatic. Simply put, kataphatic prayer is the prayer of words or images. Apophatic prayer is inarticulate, wordlessly attending to the Presence of Jesus within. We as Western Evangelicals are much more familiar and comfortable with the former. I am discovering in my journey in prayer, though, that with greater frequency I’m being drawn to a place beyond words, into the place simply of His Presence.

And sometimes His groanings. As He grieves over all the calamity in this world, is it not surprising that He would invite us to groan with Him? To accompany Him in His grief?

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