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presence of the present or WHAT IS WATER?

Our evening was really inspired by the “back to school” rush that many of us have or will go through in the next few weeks.  As rhythms return — or even if you are in a season with new rhythms (or no real rhythms) there will always remain a tendency for us to “sleepwalk” or numbingly go through our days.

Are we awake to the everyday?

Are we aware of the choice we have — every moment — to break out of the numbness and SEE life?

We dug into a few elements in order to consider it further tonight during our gathering . . .

 

WORDS

When we treat ‘Christian’ as a verb – a ‘doing word’ – instead of a noun, it changes everything. We stop saying ‘I am a Christian’, and start looking at how we can behave in Christian ways. The Christian faith is then seen as a spiritual practice rather than a belief system.  – Dave Tomlinson

The eye that sees nobility and beauty in what another would regard as ordinary is the eye of prayer. – Sister Wendy Beckett

Most of the time, most of us are unaware of this greater reality behind things. We are immersed in the mundane, preoccupied with the outward world. The interior or spiritual dimension remains hidden; God seems absent. Yet a mystic loiters within each of us, waiting to be noticed and nurtured. – Dave Tomlinson

This is our simple goal in self-reflection: to become conscious of our ‘selves’ – to better understand the flows and processes that make up who we are, and through this consciousness, to evolve into more responsible organisms that can then go on to help others achieve the same thing.  – Kester Brewin

 What stands out / shimmers about the quotes above?

 

WATCH 

THIS IS WATER •  excerpts of a speech by David Foster Wallace

What shimmers?  Why?
Describe what WATER is — for you?
What helps you consider the WATER of the everyday?

 

 

PRAYER PRACTICE
Awareness of the Future  •  Sadhana by Anthony De Mello

 

Starting from this present moment, go over the events of the day ahead of you, events that are likely to happen . . .

You cannot be quite sure, of course, but take those events that are likely to occur with a fair amount of probability: an interview with someone, your meals, your prayer time, your journey to and from work . . .

Observe each of these events as they are likely to happen . . .

Do not attempt to correct them or improve on them . . .

Only look. Only observe . . .

The next step:

Now go over those events again and see yourself behaving (thinking, feeling, reacting) the way you would like to behave . . .

No resolutions, please! Just SEE yourself in imagination behaving as you would like to behave . . .

Then see those events as you would like them to be . . .

The final step: 

Return to each of those events . . .  Find Christ and his action in each of them . . .  Return to the present moment and end the exercise with a prayer to Christ, who is present to you now . . .

Another variation: 

Reflect for a moment that you are a manifestation of God to the world. God appears to everyone you meet today in your form and figure . . .

Now go over those future events and see this manifestation of God in action  . . .  No condemnations and judgments! And, above all, no resolutions! Only look. Only see those events as they are likely to occur. Or as you would like them to occur . . .

 

 

STORY

-excerpt from JOHN 15 (The Message)

ABIDE = meno = To remain, to continue to be, to stay, to be present, to endure, to last

I am the Real Vine and my Father is the Farmer. He cuts off every branch of me that doesn’t bear grapes. And every branch that is grape-bearing he prunes back so it will bear even more. You are already pruned back by the message I have spoken.

Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.  I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.  I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.

You didn’t choose me, remember; I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, he gives you.

But remember the root command: Love one another.

 

 CONSIDER

Jesus invites us into the CHOICE — a choice to engage in the larger reality we are made for — something beyond US beyond just ME — connecting with the larger reality of humanity, creation, and the Divine.  When we choose to be cut off — we choose less than the humanity we are made for.  Being cut off we miss the bottom line . . . which is LOVE.  Remaining connected is to SEE others to SEE self and to SEE God all around us.  Being at HOME is to be present and see people with the “nobility and beauty” that Sister Wendy Beckett speaks about above.

 

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processing through faith . . . (metaphors abound)

I want to give a shout out to Mrs. Kedy — from my Creative Writing Class in High School.  It was in this class I learned to process writing, media, etc.  In class, we learned to take the quotes that resonated with us — and to really let the content sink deep until it produced new thoughts about the world around and within us.  So, thank you for this gift Mrs. Kedy!

She inspired a pursuit that I have continued to hone to the present day.  I soak up movies, novels (not great at reading fiction, but when it do), theology, philosophy, tv shows, art, poetry, etc  — all to have my eyes opened more to life — to self — to others — and certainly, to God.

Cloud Cult has been a band that spurs that value on in me.  I’ve often revisited there music over the years — finding a depth and meaning in their music that encourages my own pursuit and way with God in this life.  As we continued to consider our process in life/faith as a community, we talked about the great tragedy of ARRIVING.

I think one of the greatest values I can pass on to my kids (and we to our children in our community of faith) is to encourage them to KEEP PROCESSING.  The most tragic thing may be when we think we HAVE IT MADE, when we FOUND IT ALL, when we ARRIVE AND CONCLUDE.

And yet, to champion processing — we need metaphors that are beyond the stagnant — beyond “solid” and “rock”.  What metaphors might we have?  Certainly they abound.  But we entered this exercise by considering the Cloud Cult’s, GHOST INSIDE OUR HOUSE

 

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We saw a ghost inside our house,
Or was it wishful thinkin’?
Oh god, don’t leave us by ourselves,
Or we’re bound to take up drinkin’

Please send us a miracle, So I know that there is meaning
I said, “I think that it’s a miracle, Just to be breathin'”

So live on, Baby live on
Packed up my clothes in a grocery bag, I’m going to find the creator
An old man in the clouds or a happy little alien
Whoever it is I need to thank her

And even though I don’t know God, I’m happy with the mystery
And I’m certain that I feel it, Every time that you sing to me

Songs, you say, Life is like a song, It’s a song, A hum-able song

I watched you sleep until 5 am,
Cause I want to be part of your dreaming
Oh love, don’t leave me by myself, Or I’m bound to lose my meaning
We’ll start a little family, And call it our religion
Hunt for ghosts inside our house, ’Cause we’ll never give up wishing

That we live on, May we live on, In our song, Our hum-able song

 

What does this song stir in you?

Write down one thing you are “processing”?

Why do you feel you have not “concluded”?
Can faith be something always in flux?
Is there no destination or arrival?  Why?  Why not?

 

Barbara Brown Taylor writes,  To become fully human means learning to turn my gratitude for being alive into some concrete common good. It means growing gentler toward human weakness. It means practicing forgiveness of my and everyone else’s hourly failures to live up to divine standards . . . It means receiving the human condition as blessing not curse, in all its achingly frail and redemptive reality. 

 

On the evening we engaged in this dialogue — I also asked us to work through some poetry — and to even write some poetry in smaller groups.  I challenged us to use the model of Wendell Berry’s poem, to offer our own “limited-wisdom” on process.

 Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary, 

some in the wrong direction. 

Practice resurrection. 

 

Be like the _________

who _______________

(admission of limitations)
(life-giving restated)

 

Some of the examples are below . . . consider the grace of limited wisdom.  Consider the process you may be in the middle of.  How might you show grace and love through your PROCESS?  How might you SEE with new eyes your situation — and soak up the inspiration from the moment.

 

Be like the sun
Which produces heat and light.
It can whither life
But centers our universe

 

Be like the turtle who moves ever so slowly
and life may seem to pass him by
but he enjoys the moments
as they come

 

Be like the chameleon
Who changed colors like the wind
sometimes the camouflage is unhelpful
practice uniqueness

 

 

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processing through faith . . . like a grandmother’s love

Blessed are the man and the woman
who have grown beyond their greed
and have put and end to their hatred
and no longer nourish illusions.

But they delight in the way things are
and keep their hearts open, day and night.

They are like the trees planted near flowing rivers,

which bear fruit when they are ready.
their leaves will not fall or wither.
Everything they do will succeed.

a Stephen Mitchell translation of Psalm 1

 

I remember when a friend shared this translation of Psalms with me–the first psalm stuck with me ever since.  A few Sunday evenings ago we began our conversation considering this psalm.  What images stood out?  What resonated with us?  What came to mind as we slowly read together?

Many beautiful things came from this discussion — and yet one person really left us all with an image we’d not soon forget.  “But they delight in the way things are . . .” The image that came to mind for a grandmother in our group was, well, a grandmother!  “A grandmother loves you no matter what,” she said.  “She doesn’t look at your failures, your ‘what ifs’, or even your successes,” she continued, “a grandmother looks at you with eyes that see you as you are — who you are — and opens her arms to you.”

Wow.

Sure, not every grandmother conveys such a present and gracious mindset.  And yet, we in the room, GOT IT.  We understood what she meant.  It was like a breath of fresh air.

Maybe this Psalm conveys a progress through life?  As it’s translated here — can’t you see this?  When we are young — we are always grasping for new, for more, greedy for experience, achievement, and recognition.  As we grow older (or wiser — not necessarily connected with age) — we see through such greed. We experience the fleeting nature of success and even failure.  We even begin to look at life less through eyes of expectation — with illusion.  But we begin to see things as they are.

And seeing things as they are often leads us to cynicism.  You know the kind.  “Nothing will ever change.”  Or my favorite (sarcasm), “It is what it is.”  And to some degree— yes, things are the way they are.  What is — is what IS!  And yet, wisdom still hopes for change — but not through illusion but action.  And wisdom also lets go of the hate that often fuels cynicism.

It is a process to end up as the grandmother.

  • The gracious one.
  • The eyes open to reality one.
  • The eyes open and still gracious one.
  • The arms open – eyes open – endlessly offering grace one.

 

And just how do we think it would affect us — and others to experience such arms open kind of grace?  Wouldn’t it be enough for us to firmly plant our lives and grow?  Wouldn’t we be like the “tree firmly planted by the water?”

 

We’ve been talking process — the reality that WHERE WE ARE — isn’t always where we will be.  And WHERE WE WERE isn’t necessarily something we can get back to — or need to get back to.  We live the new normal — and yet, there will always be a fluidity, a process, a journey in our life (and our faith).

Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we’d stay close to the “track” that leads to greater love?  David seems to paint that picture here.  Jesus seems to call us to such a “track” — such  road — such WAY.

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everyday. practice.

Tonight we talked about the practice of an everyday faith.  The word of Brother Lawrence are a guide . . .

 

“You need not cry very loud: He is nearer to us than we think.”

“That there needed neither art nor science for going to GOD, but only a heart resolutely determined to apply itself to nothing but Him, or for His sake, and to love Him only.” 

“By rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I am come to a state wherein it would be as difficult for me not to think of God as it was at first to accustom myself to it.”

 

I find the final quote one that I long for.  That “thinking of God first” is a matter of practice and process–it doesn’t just happen.

A practice like the following, is one that just might place us on the path of mindfulness.  It is a prayer modeled after the Daily Examen.

 

EVERYDAY EXAMINE • a practice in Awake-Full-Ness

Return to the beginning of your week/day.
Ask to have eyes open to the nearness of God.

Filter through your moments.
Take note of interactions, settings, feelings, times together & in solitude.

Note what shimmers.
What moment stands out or stays with you.  

Consider this as nearness.
Rather than second guessing—consider that which stands out as meaningful.  What about it matters?  What speaks “nearness” about the moment?  Is this a reoccurring theme?  Is it a unique encounter?

Thank God.
Ask that you might be AWAKE enough to sense God in the moment.

 

 

COMMUNION

We ended the night considering one final quote of Brother Lawrence as we shared in communion.

“The King, full of mercy and goodness, very far from chastising me, embraces me with love, makes me eat at His table, serves me with His own hands, gives me the key of His treasures; He converses and delights Himself with me incessantly, in a thousand and a thousand ways, and treats me in all respects as His favorite. It is thus I consider myself from time to time in His holy presence.” – Brother Lawrence

 

Christ body broken for all.
Christ blood poured out for forgiveness for all.
His embrace, in this moment and in all.

 

 

everyday lens

The Inspiring Nature of the Everyday

 

QUESTION

 

In what ways do you most naturally encounter God?

 

I grew up with a pretty narrow — and yet valuable — perspective on what it means to be “close to God.”  It is valuable to me still because it was a foundation for caring about God and seeking a life of awareness.  And yet, I look back and see more boundaries and narrowness than anything else.  God was to be found in the confines of Scripture only — and the way we engage God was in reading and study.

Let me first say – that I DO have a high value of the Story of God — it shapes what we can know of God, for sure!  However, unless we are bent toward a studiousness — we seem to have no hope of engaging God.  Words cannot be the ULTIMATE, right?  God is ultimate.  Not limited to words.  Not limited to our education.  Not limited even to literacy.  Well, I hope not.

So, with that said, combined with my own trek through a life of vocational ministry — that has become a life of DUAL vocations in Design and Pastoring.  I cannot limit God to just encountering Him in the narrow way of my childhood.  Namely, because life seems SO MUCH BIGGER.  And life is also so much more chaotic.  Do we only know and draw near to God through a 10 minute “quiet time” — or could their be more?

There is so much BEAUTY expressed all around us that opens us to God.

There are so many relationships that are built around the TABLE that reveal the nearness of God.

There are so many aspects of the city that open our eyes to God.

There are actions, rhythms, prayers, and words that make us aware to God.

The conversation we are engaged in within Convergence is one that is exploring our individual “lenses” or “bents” to experience God more broadly.  So we are simply asking,

In what ways do you most naturally encounter God?

I’ve arbitrarily made 4 areas that may help speak to our areas of natural connection with God.  They don’t define ever way — and you are not just one of these.  It’s on overlap — a “both/and” — so don’t get hung up on narrowly defining yourself or others.  This is meant to be a tool of grace and a tool of self-examination.

EVERYDAY-blog

A TOOL OF GRACE.

We have all gone through life feeling more near or more distant from God, right?  I think it probably has a bit of a connection to a narrow view of how we connect with God.  Do we feel closer when we “go to church”?  Do we feel closer when we enact a “quiet time”?  And what of those seasons of life where these things are truly difficult?  Is it your lack of commitment showing through?  Or is it simply a humanness — a realization that you cannot be everything and do everything?  Burnout comes to those who seek to be super-human.

Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long. – M. Gungor, The Crowd, The Critic, and the Muse: A Book for Creators

More grace, i say.  We need more ways to see God and more affirmation to see God in our everyday.  This is grace.

 

A TOOL OF SELF-EXAMINATION

We must be people of examination.  The contemplative world understands this.  If we don’t know ourselves, we blindly go through life never growing.  We cannot be learners if we don’t know where we are.  We cannot see beyond ourselves if we don’t acknowledge our own limited lens.  We need to be aware.  We need to know our true and false self.  Examination is key.

 

Back to the question.

In what ways do you most naturally encounter God?

Take a look at these slideshows — they may be the first clue as to where you identify.

 

BEAUTY:  Do you see God in what these images represent?

• View our BEAUTY images

• Read more about BEAUTY here.

 

TABLE:  Do you see God in what these images represent?

• View our TABLE images

• Read more about TABLE here.

 

DEVOTION:  Do you see God in what these images represent?

• View our DEVOTION images

• Read more about DEVOTION here.

 

CITY:  Do you see God in what these images represent?

• View our CITY images

• Read more about CITY here.

 

 

DOWNLOAD THE PDF
The Inspiring Nature of the Everyday

– by scott scrivner

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