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 Largest Felting Project Ever!

My friends Sandy and Peter asked me to make a felting piece to go over their couch. I’ve been procrastinating, daunted by the size and scope of the project, but yesterday morning I woke up and said. “This is the day!”

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Laying a deep sheet and towel under it, to protect the table.

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Base layer.

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Starting to mess about with different ideas.

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The arteeste at work.

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Climbing on a stepladder for a birds eye view. Love my Crocs!

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Here it is, all felted. I’m going to add some needle felting embellishments once it dries, and then try and figure out a wall hanging system.

So what has this got to do with New Monasticism?

Monastic communities, through the ages, have been centres of creativity and the arts. We celebrate the Creator by co-creating!

Experiments in Spiritual Disciplines

In our Studies in New Monasticism internship, our interns are reading Richard Foster’s classic book, Celebration of Discipline. I love the way Foster moves us away from spiritual disciplines as a “to do list” to be good Christians, and invites us into a perspective of the practice of spiritual disciplines as a means of “putting ourselves in the path of oncoming grace”. God has so much he wants to pour into our lives, and we can actively position ourselves to receive it. Exciting!

For their assignment this month they are choosing some of the Christian disciplines and creating experiments where they will be exploring them in new ways or with a new focused intention.

Here are some of their experiments. Maybe they will spark some of your own!

Going for walks by myself (solitude and silence)

Deleting my Facebook account (gasp! fasting)

Giving away one evening of my time each week to help someone (simplicity)

Making myself accountable to one of my co-workers about my attitude and language towards my boss (confession)

Volunteering at church (service)

Having a dance party at my house every week (celebration)

Picking a Scripture each morning to think about while I’m at work (meditation)

Letting go of my desire to be right all the time (submission)

Not hanging out with my friends for a week to make room to talk to God about my life (guidence)

Going to church every Sunday (worship)

What about you? How would you like to experiment with Christian Disciplines?

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Congregation Relocation

Today was our last official Sunday at our church, Flamborough Christian Fellowship. We’ve attended this small and feisty charismatic church in Waterdown for six years. But when Kirk and I moved into Hamilton we knew that eventually we would have to find a local church in the downtown core. It’s taken two and a half years. We’ve dragged our feet because we loooooove our pastor Bob Warriner, and we have been so lovingly cared for by the congregation. They get us. And have supported our crazy urban mission/prayer adventures.

For the last year and a half, Kirk and I have been partnering with Sue Carr as she runs a chapel on Sunday afternoons at Mission Services. Mission Services cares for those who struggle with homelessness and addiction issues, and the urban poor who live nearby. Our Sunday chapel looks like a cross between an AA meeting and a Bible study. You never know what’s going to happen any given Sunday. We’ve grown to know and love the eclectic congregation there as I’ve co-ordinated hospitality (you get to know folks real well at the coffee urn) and as Kirk has served on the worship team, playing lotsa rockabilly on his snare as he accompanies our buddy Ellis.

After much prayer and consideration, we decided that we wanted to adopt the Mission Services Chapel as our primary church family. We want to deeply invest in neighborhood relationships. We want to step away from “ministering to the poor”, which creates in our mind an artificial separation, an “us and them” mentality. Instead, we simply want to relocate ourselves and try and learn how to love our neighbours well.

Here is a photo of Kirk and I with our beloved Pastor Bob from Flamborough Christian Fellowship, and one of Kirk and Ellis rocking it out at Mission Services.

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My Second Most Embarrassing Worship Leading Moment, or Neurotic, Part 2

I’m lying face down behind the stage backdrop curtain.  My heart is pounding.  My spirit is heaving and churning.  The burden feels intolerable.  Either I have to release the song that’s rolling around my spirit, or I have to leave the building.  That’s all there is too it.   I feel like a woman in labour, and it’s time to push..

I’m at a national prayer gathering in the late nineties, a member of one of the worship teams assigned to the event.  There are three such teams, waiting in reserve beside the stage.  The event leaders want us all available, so they can call up whichever team the Holy Spirit wants to lead at a given moment.

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It is the last day of the event, and a song I had recently written starts to rattle around inside of me, with increasing intensity.  Things amp up and up in my insides, to the point where it feels the Spirit is blowing inside me with gale force winds, to the point where I start to feel a bit out of control.

Thus the faceplant behind the stage.  It is the least embarrassing place to wrestle it through, I think.

The conference starts to wind down, and miracle of miracles, our team is called to the stage.  Finally!  This is the moment!  I can sing the song and release what I’m carrying in my spirit.   I peel myself off the floor, leap up to the stage, sling on my guitar, and step up to the microphone, poised and ready.  Yes!

Suddenly, the conference leader changes his mind.  And gestures to me to leave the stage so another team can finish the event.

I stand there for a moment, before hundreds of people, stunned and embarrassed.  I can hear my flesh screaming, but I know what I have to do.  It takes everything in me to step back from the mic, unsling my guitar, and slink off the stage.  As I pass the worship leader  who is replacing me, I have a snarky moment where I remind The Lord that I’m a better singer than she is.  The moment passes, and I place a hand of blessing on her shoulder as I pass.

I step off the stage, God says very clearly to me. “You do not have the spiritual authority to send these people out.  She does.”

I am devastated and humiliated.  I don’t understand.  Wasn’t that song rolling around in me all day long so I could sing it, release it over the people?  I walk away from the event confused and deeply discouraged.

It took me a few years, and a bunch of training on prayer, to figure it out.  What I didn’t realize was that I had actually been in intercession all day, burden bearing for the conference, and releasing in the spirit whatever grace and anointing the song carried.  I wasn’t supposed to sing it publicly, I was supposed to birth it privately through travailing prayer.

Curious what song it was?  The title track to Make My Life a Prayer.  You can download it from itunes if you like. ;o)