ENCOURAGEMENT FROM RENOVARÉ FOR LIFE WITH GOD
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OUR MISSION Renovaré USA is a nonprofit Christian organization that models, resources, and advocates fullness of Life With God experienced, by grace, through the spiritual practices of Jesus and of the historical Church. Christian in commitment, ecumenical in breadth, and international in scope, Renovaré helps people in becoming like Jesus. OUR VISION We imagine a world in which people’s lives flourish as they increasingly become like Jesus. The Renovaré Covenant succinctly communicates our hope for all those who look to him for life: In utter dependence upon Jesus Christ as my ever-living Savior, Teacher, Lord, and Friend, I will seek continual renewal through spiritual exercises, spiritual gifts, and acts of service.
EXPRESSIONS: Contents 6 : Meet the Writing Team 11 : Thank You to Margaret Campbell 17 : Formation for Families: by Lacy Finn Borgo 19 : New Sunday School Curriculum from Renovaré 20 : An excerpt from Traveling Unfamiliar Pathways: by Chris Hall 24 : The Muddle of the Mundane: by Justin Campbell 30 : Book Club Impact: Quotes from current members 31 : Holy Spirit Here and Now: New book from Trevor Hudson 34 : Simplicity Podcast: Interview with Emily P. Freeman 39 : What is a Podcast? 40 : Advent: Celebrating a Season of Reflection and Anticipation: by Julia Roller 44 : What About Those Who are Worried?: by Kyle Strobel 48 : Finding the Heart of Worship: by George Skramstad 54 : Meet George Skramstad 55 : Getting Practical: Preparing for Advent: by Rachel Quan 60 : Formation for Whole Life: by Marty Troyer 68 : The Impact of a Gathering to Discuss Millennials, the Church, and Spiritual Formation: by Bradley Burck 2 : EXPRESSIONS
LET TER FROM THE NEW BOARD CHAIR At the height of Advent, the Life we have come to follow and love was born.
As we move into Christmastime, the invitation to a Life with God is proclaimed. In John’s first letter he writes a description of this Life in flesh and blood:
“What was from the beginning, what we heard, what we saw, Gray and Abigail what we touched, concerning the Word of Life...we saw and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and walked and talked with us...” 1 John 1,2 (Paraphrase)
> Jon Bailey with his wife Kori and children
What must it have been like to hear the inflection in Jesus’s voice, make eye contact with him as he spoke, or touch his scars after witnessing his public torture? John knew and he did a great job describing, and therefore reminding us of the humanness of Jesus. His real, ordinary life. And like John, Renovaré teaches we can get in on this very real, tangible life of Christ.
This is why I love Renovaré. It’s about life.
Life offered to everyone, everywhere, regardless of age, denomination, or ethnicity. Those of us within the Renovaré community have become ambassadors and advocates for this eternal life. And as we prepare our hearts and minds for Advent, let us covenant to do two things: FIRST: Lean into Jesus’s life. The Life that was the light of men. Let us drink deeply from the Gospel records and let them assimilate deep into bone and marrow. Let us listen for his voice in silence, look into his eyes in meditation, and reach for his hands in worship. Let us declare together that this Advent will not pass us by without living in the full reality of his life. SECOND: Proclaim. Let us proclaim not only with words, but with our life! May God’s eternal life burst forth from our humble bodies. Francis of Assisi said, >
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“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Let our lives be our testimony. Let our lives be a gift to friends and family as we bless, love, and proclaim. Here are a few wonderful ways Renovaré has been advocating and proclaiming Spiritual Formation and renewal in the church this year: • In September, we co-hosted along with Calvin College, a conversation with 48 people from the world of academia on Spiritual Formation and Millenni als in a multi-cultural world. This was a rich time of sharing, learning and connecting. • The Renovaré Institute for Spiritual Formation continued to thrive under Gary Moon’s leadership and we launched our first International Cohort in London, England this past fall. • Our Life with God for Children Curriculum for Spiritual Formation by Lacy Borgo was published and is now being taught in Christian fellowships to children of all ages! • The Renovaré Book Club was developed to foster community and encour age fruitful conversation. Richard Foster and Kai Nilsen guided us through our first pick, A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly, and then we went through Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank Laubauch. (You can sign up anytime throughout the year. We invite you to join the conversation.) • Our team enjoyed traveling around the country to facilitate and speak at eight retreats and local conferences. Some were as large as 800 and some were as small as 125. One of these is taking place at the end of October as we explore what it means to change performance FOR God to living life WITH God. • We imprinted two new books this year – The Life of the Body by Valerie Hess and Lane Arnold and Trevor Hudson’s new book Holy Spirit Here & Now. •
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We launched publicity for our upcoming National Conference that is regionally built! On April 3-5, 2014 we’ll see the fruit of the regional planning that has gone on as we talk about “Identity. Community. Mission. Formation for Whole Life.”
The future is bright and as I reflect on Renovaré’s 25 year history, I am grateful for its organic and authentic growth. We’re not flashy or in your face. We’re behind the scenes. Underground. Growing like the mustard seed. Slow, steady, and strong. What drew me to this ministry was its authenticity. Its convictions. Its relationships. Richard Foster has said: “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” This is what I have found in this ministry he founded so many years ago – deep people. I trust you’ve experienced the same. As we close 2013 and look to 2014, would you pray about partnering with Renovaré by giving a special year-end gift? Consider sowing into the work we do. It’s fertile soil. Remember, we’re not trying to grow numbers but souls. It’s hard work. Rewarding work. Your partnership fuels the fire of Christlike Spiritual Formation around the world and for this, the Renovaré board truly thanks you.
Let us always remember the greatness of God and the life he gave us in his Son.
Our late friend and teacher Dallas Willard said it so beautifully, “Jesus matters because of what he brought and what he still brings to ordinary human beings, living their ordinary lives and coping daily with their surroundings. He promises wholeness for their lives. In sharing our weaknesses he gives us strength and imparts through his companionship a life that has the quality of eternity.” Seek the Kingdom,
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MEET THE WRITING TEAM
RACHEL QUAN Rachel joined the Renovaré USA team at the beginning of 2012 as Executive Director after many years of working in both ministry and business. She began in vocational ministry in 1998, joining the staff of First Presbyterian Church of Houston, and going on to become the Houston Executive Festival Director for the Luis Palau Association. She most recently served as Vice President of External Operations for the 2011 NCAA Men’s Final Four and as Executive Director for the Greater Houston Restaurant Association. She draws upon this experience as she carries out the mission of Renovaré.
CHRIS HALL Chris Hall is a member of the Renovaré Board of Trustees. Formerly the Chancellor of Eastern University and the Dean of Palmer Theological Seminary, he now serves there as Distinguished Professor of Theology and Director of Academic Spiritual Formation. Chris is the author of a number of books, including The Mystery of God (with Steven D. Boyer; Baker Academic), Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers, Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, Worshiping with the Church Fathers (InterVarsity Press), and The Trinity (with Roger Olson; Eerdmans).
JUSTIN CAMPBELL Justin and his wife, Margaret, live in Houston, Texas, where Justin has practiced law as a trial lawyer since 1973. They are members of Tallowood Baptist Church. At Tallowood, Justin is a deacon, former deacon chair and a Bible teacher. He is the author of a thirty-three week, scripturally based curriculum that complements the Renovaré literature and teaching entitled: Taking Hold of the With-God Life. Justin and Margaret have two married children and three grandchildren. 6 : EXPRESSIONS
GEORGE SKRAMSTAD A worship leader, practitioner, composer, and clinician, George has built worship ministries within local churches and is the Producer of Renovaré Live! and the Producer/ Performer of George Skramstad’s History of Worship. George and Pat, his wife, live in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where he is Pastor of Worship Ministries at Crossings Community Church.
LACY BORGO Lacy is the volunteer Director of the Renovaré Children & Families Ministry. Her Bachelor’s Degree is from University of Texas, Permian Basin and her Master’s Degree in Education from the State University of New York, Geneseo. Lacy is a recent graduate of the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Institute. She has written books and curriculum for Houghton Mifflin and McGraw Hill, and is the author of Renovaré’s children’s curriculum Life with God for Children. Lacy lives in Colorado with her family.
KYLE STROBEL Kyle Strobel is the author of Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (IVP, 2013) and an editor of Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics: A Guide for Evangelicals (IVP, 2013). Kyle teaches on Spiritual Formation and theology, and can be found online at www.KyleStrobel.com or on Twitter @KyleStrobel. >
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BRADLEY BURCK Bradley is a fundraising and marketing expert who has a heart and passion for ministries dedicated to justice, compassion, and evangelism. His professional specialty is helping nonprofits craft strategic development and marketing plans that incorporate sound development theory. His personal specialties are loving his family and friends making sure the fundamentals of Spiritual Formation take root and are practiced in his life and in the lives of those around him. Bradley is the author of two books – Conquering Nonprofit Chaos and You Can Ask. He is also the host of Renovaré’s Simplicity podcast. Bradley holds a B.S. in communication from Liberty University and a masters in strategic communication from Seton Hall University. He and his wife, Dr. Cari Burck, have two children and make their home in Wild and Wonderful West Virginia.
Trevor Hudson, a Methodist minister, pastoral therapist, and widely sought-after speaker, is a gifted teacher who encourages people through stories of his personal spiritual journey. Trevor is the author of many books, including Discovering our Spiritual Identity, Questions God Asks Us, and Holy Spirit Here and Now. He has spent most of his time in and around Johannesburg, South Africa, where he lives with his wife Debbie.
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JULIA ROLLER Julia is the editor/compiler of 25 Books Every Christian Should Read, A Year with God and A Year with Aslan, and coauthor, with Lynda L. Graybeal, of Connecting with God, Learning from Jesus, Prayer and Worship, and Living the Mission, all published by HarperOne. She has written reader’s guides for many books, including Streams of Living Water and Prayer by Richard J. Foster, Velvet Elvis, Sex God, and Drops Like Stars all by Rob Bell, Made for Goodness by Desmond and Mpho Tutu, Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor, Intimacy and A Letter of Consolation by Henri J. M. Nouwen, Ana’s Story by Jenna Bush, and When Religion Becomes Evil by Charles Kimball, and was the project editor of The Life with God Bible. She has also contributed to several books, including Go Deeper Retreats, Young Adult Ministry in the 21st Century, Plugging in Parents, The Preteen Worker’s Encyclopedia of Bible-Teaching Ideas, and Over-the Top Games for Youth Ministry. Julia currently lives in southern California with her husband and two sons.
Marty Troyer is a husband and father, pastor and writer. He’s the pastor of Houston Mennonite Church: The Church of the Sermon on the Mount and writes as “The Peace Pastor” for The Houston Chronicle at blog.chron.com/thepeacepastor/. You can follow him on twitter: https://twitter.com/ ThePeacePastor and facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ ThePeacePastor.
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RENOVARÉ PRESS RELEASE NEW RENOVARÉ CHAIRMAN APPOINTED Jon Bailey to follow Margaret Campbell as Chair of Board of Trustees JonBaileyDenver, CO —Jon Bailey has been elected Chair of the Board of Trustees for Renovaré, a leading voice in the Christian community’s Spiritual Formation movement. A graduate of Texas A&M University, Jon and his twin brother Josh are the founders of two web-based businesses, GracewayMedia.com (which they sold last year) and Lightstock.com. Bailey follows Margaret Campbell, who guided the ministry through crucial changes after the retirement of founder Richard Foster, author of the bestselling book, Celebration of Discipline. Campbell helped the board transition from first to second generation leadership. Bailey calls the future for the ministry bright. “As I reflect on Renovaré’s 25-year history, I am grateful for its organic and authentic growth,” said Bailey, a father of three. “It isn’t flashy or ‘in your face,’ but behind the scenes, underground and growing like a mustard seed. What drew me to this ministry was its authenticity, convictions and relationships.” Executive Director Rachel Quan said Renovaré is grateful for the many years of Campbell’s faithful leadership, particularly how she guided the organization through considerable change with grace and care. Calling the changeover to Bailey’s leadership “significant,” she said over the past year it became obvious that Jon is called for this moment in time. “His passion for the deep Kingdom life has been a gift to all of us who have had the privilege of serving alongside him,” Quan said. “Jon is centered, kind, gentle and wise. Deep reflection is how he ‘does life.’ He has a kind regard for the history of the ministry and how that fits into our current decision-making. I’m looking forward to leading with him as we head into the future.” Board member Mimi Dixon noted that in Celebration of Discipline, Foster wrote, “The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.” When Campbell came to the end of her term as chair, Dixon said board members prayerfully searched for a “deep” person to follow her: “The Lord led us to Jon Bailey. Wise beyond his years, Jon is a man after God’s own heart—devoted to Jesus and committed to living his life as Christ would. We are pleased that he has accepted our unanimous invitation to serve and be our ambassador for our ongoing work and mission.” Noting that the ministry focuses on learning to live the life God graciously offers to all who place their confidence in him, Campbell said it has been a privilege to lead the board through its transformation to second-generation leadership. “Jon understands the teaching and ethos of Renovaré, meaning I can step out of my role with confidence,” she said. “Renovaré is fortunate to have leaders who will listen first and then act appropriately.”
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With Margaret there is always an image. My image is of a bridge. Margaret, you allowed us, by force of will sometimes and by God’s gracious leading always, to journey toward an exciting future connected to a faithful past. Well done, good and faithful servant. – Kai Nilsen
I have deeply appreciated Margaret’s faithful service and excellent and sacrificial work as Chair of the Renovaré Board all these years. She has been a great blessing to me and to all of us. I am glad that she will continue to serve on the Board, and wish her the Lord’s best and richest blessings! – Siang-Yang Tan
Margaret’s calm, Spirit-filled, prayerful mind and heart have been a deep encouragement to me. When Margaret says she will pray for you, she means it, and this loving consistency makes all the difference. Renovaré has been deeply blessed by Margaret’s prayers – and leadership – and for this I’m deeply grateful. Thanks, Margaret. – Chris Hall
Margaret, dear friend and sister, You have truly been led by the Spirit these last years in leading our Renovaré ministry through a time of change and growth. You have been wise and discerning in our change in governance. The Board and Ministry Team are truly one in spirit because you took the time to work this through with us. Thanks for all the hours you have shared so generously – truly a gift of love that the church might be renewed. Grace, – Roger Fredrikson P.S. I know Justin has given you warm support.
Dear Margaret, I remember when you stood on stage in Houston and told us how you had said “yes” to the Lord’s call to chair the International Conference for Renovaré. You have continued that response, guiding Renovaré over mountains and valleys for so many years. In addition, you have personally taken on the task of upholding me, along with Dallas, in prayer and correspondence during the long year past.
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You can “fill in the blank” of what Dallas would say as you conclude this long and dramatic chapter – knowing it will be even more profound and eloquent with his new eternal view and mind. I can only assure you of the esteem he held for you. I remember that when you called and told him how important it was that he be in attendance at some meeting, he made whatever arrangements he could to be there. Thank you! – Jane Willard
Margaret Campbell has been a heart friend… a kindred spirit from the first moments I met her at the St. Francis Retreat Center many years ago. I saw her amazing leadership abilities and grace in operation at the Houston International Renovaré Conference, but it was the one-on-one times later that revealed her heart for Jesus, for Renovaré, for prayer, and for deep, meaningful relationships… especially toward me when I doubted my purpose on the Renovaré Board. She essentially kept Renovaré together through some very turbulent transition times and always accomplished it with her quiet, thoughtful, calm voice and spirit. My heart is filled with gratitude to her for “doing love” for all these years. – Gayle Withnell
In Celebration of Discipline Richard wrote, “In our day heaven and earth are on tiptoe waiting for the emerging of the Spirit-led, Spirit-intoxicated, Spiritempowered people. All of creation watches expectantly for the springing up of a disciplined, freely gathered, martyr people who know in this life the life and power of the Kingdom of God.” It was a glad and glorious day in 2003 when Margaret Campbell accepted Richard’s invitation to chair Renovaré’s Board of Trustees. Margaret’s “Spirit-led, Spirit-intoxicated, Spirit-empowered” leadership provided just the needed touch and discerning insight required to guide the ministry through Richard’s retirement into the next chapter of Renovaré’s far-reaching vision and mission. Thank you, Margaret, for ten wonderful years! – Mimi Dixon
Ten years ago Margaret Campbell stepped into the leadership of Renovaré. At that time we did not know we would be heading into some rather stormy waters. I thank God for Margaret’s steady wisdom and firm leadership in guiding the good ship Renovaré through all these changes and transitions and into its new future. – Richard J. Foster >
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Margaret Campbell brought to Renovaré a very powerful gift. Renovaré needed the gift that Jesus deposited by the Holy Spirit into Margaret’s life and that gift was and is the gift of leadership/administration (1 Corinthians 12:28 NLT, NIV84). Margaret, you were able to see things that only the Spirit of God could show you in consultation with others on and off the Board. LaVoughn and I thank the Triune God for his apostolic grace on your life. You are truly BLESSED! – Donn Charles Thomas
Of the many things that Margaret has done, one thing stands out the most: the idea that the transition of our leadership in the past ten years should be honored. During both the challenging and miraculous work provided by our Father, she has continually persisted in her faithful obedience to him. I appreciate her willingness to listen with a humble spirit, a beautiful trait that manifests throughout her life. – Brian Kang
When I think of Margaret Campbell, the woman of Proverbs 30 comes immediately to mind: “Strength and dignity are her clothing” (verse 25). As I have worked alongside Margaret over the years, these two qualities stand out, through busy and hectic times and through many transitions. “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (verse 26). Margaret has taught me much about living with kindness in all circumstances. I thank God for Margaret and her willingness to give selflessly for so many years. And I thank you, Margaret! –Joan Skulley
Margaret Campbell has been a shining jewel in my life. She has befriended me in so many ways. Her luster reflects the blazing light of God’s presence. Bill and I have enjoyed such happy times with her and Justin, and we’re grateful for her years and their years of faithful service to Renovaré. – Emilie Griffin
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Margaret Campbell has been a tireless champion of Renovaré through her leadership, through her encouragement, and through her willingness to be used. It has been a commitment that has reached beyond the typical into a passion for Spiritual Formation through the auspices of Renovaré. From helping to lead a general conference to providing leadership for the entire Board, Margaret has been a sustaining force through these many years of selfless service. Well done, faithful servant! – George Skramstad
Margaret Campbell is a tiny person, but she has a huge heart. Her kindness and graciousness are evidence of God’s good work in her life. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to work closely with a woman whose gift of leadership is matched with a rare and inspiring generosity of spirit. What a blessing it is to be Margaret’s friend! – Richella Parham
The Board of Trustees has the responsibility to help Renovaré stay true to this vision and mission. As I worked with the board I found the Trustees to be people who take this responsibility seriously, listen well to one another, pray together and laugh together. They help one another learn how to become more like Jesus in word and deed. It has been a privilege and great joy to lead the board through the transition from founder to second-generation leadership. Jon Bailey understands the teaching and ethos of Renovaré. I step out of my role as Chair of the Board of Trustees with confidence in Jon, the board and Rachel. The future is bright and Renovaré is fortunate to have leaders who will listen first and then act appropriately. – Margaret Campbell
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Formation for Families
By Lacy Finn Borgo
An excerpt from Good Dirt: A Year Long Spiritual Formation Family Devotional to Mark Our Lives by the Life of Jesus1 I hear the laments of parents. I am a lamenting parent. Christmas is too much about the stuff. The stuff begins to clog up the supermarket aisles as early as September. My kids are bombarded by ads trying to get them, to get me, to want to buy them their hearts’ desires of shiny junk. As a Christian I want to celebrate the birth of Jesus in a way that honors him. Advent is four weeks of preparation for the King of creation. When we put it that way it almost seems that four weeks isn’t long enough. Blue is the color for the season, specifically royal blue as my eldest daughter reminds me, because Jesus is the King. I admit sometimes I forget that. With all the advertisements and the meals to prepare and the ever-present Christmas music, I can hardly think. I can hardly remember. Advent is preparation, it’s remembering; remembering that royal blue is for a royal King. With all the distraction that is modern life, plus the added distraction of Christmas, we need ways to remember. Several years ago at Ridgeland Community Church, some saintly ladies taught me the importance of Advent. They tutored my “non-crafty” self through the process of making an 1
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Advent wreath. They taught me the significance of preparation for the Christ Child. I am forever grateful. Through the practice of Advent I learned to lean in and celebrate this blessed holiday. During those first few years of practicing Advent it was just my husband and me, and surprisingly, we never fought over who got to blow out the candles. Now, my children take turns to see who gets to blow candle wax all over the table. Advent is a staple in our home. It is a practice that grounds us to the truths of Jesus. There are other practices for Advent as well. Pick a few and give them a try this Advent season. Here are a few practices to try: Try Fasting Fasting during the Holiday Season? Yes! Fasting has been used as a tool for thousands of years to help us listen. By turning off other things we open our hearts and minds to God who longs to whisper his great love to those who will listen. There are many ways and many things that we can fast to prepare for the royal Baby. • This time of year strikes fear in the minds of all parents who have the foresight to consider all the sugar their children are about to ingest. As a family,
save all sweets for Sunday. Sundays are traditionally celebration days, even during a time of fasting. Every Sunday we celebrate the resurrection – and what better way to “taste and see that the Lord is good” than by saving the sweets for Sunday? Remember we are moving “counter-clockwise” to our culture. Here in the season of Advent, we actively wait. • Fast from media when all family members are together. Evenings are usually the best time for most families. You can replace the usual TV time with a seasonal fun activity, a family game, or read together. Try The Story of the Other Wise Man.2 • Two Saturdays during Advent eat rice and beans only. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Discuss what it must be like to have this every day. Decide as a family on a charity you would like to work with during the holidays. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. • Give up your gifts. Fast from giving gifts to each other this year. Instead, use the money to buy gifts for a family in your community who has very little. Plan a covert operation to drop off the gifts without being caught. Spend all four weeks of Advent planning. Just Say Slow This time of year is the busiest. Gifts to buy, parties to attend, food to make, and that is in addition to work, school, and kids. On our continent, creation has taken its cues from the earth and is slowing down. During Advent, the 2
first signs of winter come. The trees are brown, animals are hibernating, and the sun sets earlier. There is more dark than light. Dark gives the signal to our bodies – slow down, reflect, and savor. It never makes sense to go against God’s already established rhythm. Advent is waiting time, where the air is literally pregnant with the presence of God. Like all pregnancies, too much stress and strain is not good for growing. So slow down, make the space each day to watch and wait as your family grows with Mary’s belly, ripe with the Christ child. I encourage you to change gears this year. Get off the holiday treadmill and savor those quiet moments of Advent. Say “No, thanks,” to a few invitations and responsibilities. “I’ve got a baby to wait for.”
What other practices might you and your family try? How might you talk about preparing together for Advent? What ideas do your children have for helping your family to focus on the coming of Jesus? We’d love to hear what you come up with! Join us on our Life With God for Children Facebook page and post the ideas and practices you have in your family this > Lacy Finn Borgo time of year!
Henry Van Dyke, The Story of the Other Wise Man. Paraclete Press. 2008.
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NEW SUNDAY SCHOOL CURRICULUM FROM RENOVARÉ
Now available in the Renovaré store. 19 : EXPRESSIONS
An excerpt from:
Traveling Unfamiliar Pathways Advent 2013 devotional
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2013 Advent Devotional Order your ALL NEW Advent Devotional with a special gift to Renovaré. With devotions and reflections from Chris Hall, James Catford, Juanita Rasmus, Mimi Dixon, Margaret Campbell, Nathan Foster, Sue Catford, and many others.
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The Muddle of the
Mundane By Justin Campbell
So, the idea was to go
through just one entire regular work day without insisting on having my own way. Rather, I would allow the Kingdom of God and, within appropriate limits, the kingdoms of others to hold sway over the kingdom of me. As Bob Dylan once put it, I was “going to forget about myself for a while, go out and see what others need.” 24 : EXPRESSIONS
Well, one-half mile from our home my route to the office involves a left turn across one very busy street onto another very busy street. There is a left turn signal, and if all concerned are paying attention (no texting, no applying make-up, no day dreaming, etcetera), usually every driver wishing to turn left may do so within a single cycle of the traffic signals. I am stopped in the left turn lane. I am second in line. And I am paying attention. The green arrow for “turn left now” appears. The driver ahead of me in line hesitates for a full nanosecond. Before I even have time to think, I am firing-at-will, a castigating verbal fusillade, both barrels, re-load, fire again and again. Wow! Such anger. Such contempt for others. Was that really me? Even worse, was that the real me? Didn’t Jesus say something about putting off anger and contempt for others so that I might actually live my real life in the flow of God’s Kingdom present among us? Hmm. But, so what? “[Stuff ] happens,” right? Right.
In The Middle of the Mundane This article is about Christian Spiritual Formation and the mundane: the secular, the ordinary, our day-to-day 25 : EXPRESSIONS
comings and goings. This is about formation when we are not at church, or engaged in some explicitly Christian ministry, or being otherwise “evangelical” or “missional.” That such a category of thought even exists within our musings about Christian Spiritual Formation in itself may be revealing. Could it be that this sacred/secular dichotomy betrays what Richard Foster rightly identifies as a selfrighteous concern “to make impressive gains on ecclesiastical scoreboards” so that “people see and appreciate the effort” and render unto us appropriate “human applause?” (Celebration of Discipline p. 128) The mundane offers little possibility for that. So, do we relegate the mundane to the hinterland of the Christian life? Should we? Or do we mistake the prominent for the significant? Seriously, is there even such a thing as Christian Spiritual Formation for the day-to-day? Is there any other kind? Most of us dwell in the middle of mundane. That is where we are most of the time, along with almost everyone else. But the Kingdom of God has drawn near. God has intervened in human history. There is a river of God’s authority and power flowing though human life. All of it. No exceptions. This is a river that cannot be crossed and wherever this river goes there is life. >
Our part is to enter the river, move into the deeper water, pick up our feet, and swim in cooperation with the river. We are each called through discernment and surrender to join God in what God is doing where we actually are, even, and especially, when that involves stuff like what happens at a busy intersection on the way to work. If Christian Spiritual Formation was primarily for the mundane, what might that look like?
Formed through the Mundane Yes, Jesus did say that to enter and move with the flow of God’s authority and power, present and active among us, we must put off anger and contempt for others. And not only anger and contempt, but also lust, hard-heartedness, verbal manipulation, and vengeful withdrawal and attack. According to Jesus, we also must put on a well-reasoned, sacrificial concern for the well-being of others that acts to secure what is best for all concerned. Otherwise we simply will not choose to enter the river and live in its flow. That’s because we can’t. It’s just not in us to do. This essential teaching of Jesus is recorded in Matthew 5:17-48. There we find a map that points out the most direct route from who we really are to who we need to be, a person transformed into agape love. But as Dallas Willard frequently reminded those who
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came to hear him speak, not even a map will help us if we do not know where we really are. In this the mundane can be of substantial assistance. In the day-today, we are not always dressed in our “Sunday best” or “putting our best foot forward.” You know – maintaining appearances. The strain is just too great. This is especially true when it comes to what we actually think and feel, regardless of what we may say or do. As someone said, “No matter where I go, the real me just keeps showing up.” Yes, that driver in the left turn lane was really me. Apparently, in the kingdom of me, my will to get through that intersection in a single cycle of the traffic signals is, for me and for those around me, a potentially lethal reality. But when, by the grace of God, I can locate myself at the corner of anger and contempt that is a real help. Now I know where I am and can use the map that Jesus gives me. And I have hope. I have the assurance from his teaching that change is possible, unless we should understand Jesus as insisting on something that is actually an unrealizable ideal or perhaps something for the Millennium. Hardly. Now I can join Thomas à Kempis in the practice of examen, praying: “Lord, my way does not work and it is dangerous,” and mean it. As Richard
Foster teaches us in Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (pp. 28-29), through the prayer of examen I reflect on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of my day (the good and the not so good), see how God has been present, and how I have responded. Second, I ask God to search me, to know my thoughts and feelings, and to lead me in the way everlasting. By the practice of examen, I may receive the grace of God that, through the mundane, enables me to know who I really am and to receive transformation into the person I am created to be, just as Jesus says I should. In the spiritual life, much depends on the formation of our minds, what we actually think and feel. If we are “to do what Jesus would do,” we must choose as Jesus would choose. But to choose as Jesus would choose, we must think and feel as Jesus would think and feel, ultimately without having to think. This is because our mental formation is all that our wills (spirit, heart) have to work with when it comes to deciding what to do and acting on it. Thus in Romans 12:2 we read: “Be transformed by the renewal of your minds.” This is not the same as knowing what we ought to think and feel. This is a change of mind such that our actual thoughts and feelings line up with the reality of God and the goodness of God’s way everlasting.
Again, the mundane may be a
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substantial means to our transformation into Christlikeness by the renewal of our minds. We may approach our ordinary day-to-day comings and goings as a laboratory in which we perform Kingdom experiments by actually putting into practice what Jesus says is best. Acting in what Paul calls “the obedience that comes from faith,” (whatever faith we have, great or small or in between), we do something Jesus says to do and observe what happens. For example, Jesus says that God the Father is able to give good gifts to those who ask him; and therefore, we can do unto others as we would have them do unto us without fear of what will happen to us if we do. But is that true? Can I stake my real life on that? And what will happen to me if I do? There is no need to be heroic. We can just act to the degree that our real trust in Jesus will permit. Perhaps we could start with something like blessing those who curse us or attempting to turn away the wrath of others with a soft answer. For a season, maybe we could abandon the practice of letting others know how thoroughly wrong they are as a way to get them to do what we want them to do. Maybe we could just ask them for what we want, prepared to accept “no” for an answer, as Jesus recommends? These are all possibilities – and there are many more. It’s all true, and we can come to know that by experi-
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ence. Not merely sort of believe. We can put into practice what Jesus says to do in our ordinary comings-and-goings. However we might choose to put this into practice, we can come to know the reality of God and the goodness of God’s way everlasting with the same certainty that we know the reality of gravity. Being convinced from experience about gravity is a substantial safeguard against jumping off a tall building, expecting to fly. Imagine what it would be like to know that the “Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” with that same degree of certainty. This is possible. This is what Jesus is referring to when he says, “If you put into practice what I say to do, you truly are my apprentices. Then (but only then) you will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32 paraphrase).
Formed for the Mundane Trevor Hudson says that the way of Jesus is located properly “outside the camp” in Galilee, a place of conflict, struggle, and immense suffering, where “everyone sits beside a pool of their own tears.“ That sounds right, doesn’t it? Yes, I am fairly certain that we each are called to live mainly in this “Galilee” as a nurturing, healing, transforming presence, instruments of God’s goodness, to the glory of God, and the good of those near us. But most of that does not look like “church work.” It looks like the stuff that happens in our day-to-day comings
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and goings. Except that there are supposed to be people there (us) who act to secure what is right and good and beautiful for all concerned in the power of God with results that cannot be accounted for on the basis of human effort alone. If we would do this, how might we begin? Trevor Hudson recommends that we choose to dwell in Galilee and listen to those whom we encounter in our comings and goings. Merely listen. Then, if, but only if, we hear the Father speaking, we speak. I like that. “I think I’ll forget about myself for a while, go out and see what others need.” As Trevor Hudson continues, there is one other thing about the mundane. We can expect to encounter Jesus himself there. At the end of time, will not Jesus say, “Even as you did it unto the least of these, you did it unto me” (Matthew 25:40 paraphrase)? As we encounter Jesus in our ordinary comings and goings, we simply surrender and entrust ourselves to him who leads us into the very life of God, the life for which we are made, beginning now.
A Smooth Landing The airplane had landed in Colorado Springs. My wife is headed to a Renovaré board meeting and I am with her. Light up those ecclesiastical scoreboards, right? As the plane stops at the gate, I step into the aisle in front
of a passenger who is bent on pushing ahead as far as possible in the line forming to exit the plane. As I wait for my wife to collect her carry-on and step in front of me, this passenger says something like, “Sure, she should take as much time as she wants to get off the plane.” I step aside and hear myself say, “Why don’t you go ahead of us?” Someone else remarks in disbelief that I did not give this passenger the verbal thrashing she deserved. I am mildly flabbergasted too. But that’s more like it.
“You are the light of the world… No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NRSV) So in our mundane comings and goings, let there be light for Jesus’s sake, just as he says.
Is there more to ordinary life in the Kingdom of the Heavens than negotiating traffic intersections and exiting airplanes? Sure. There are things like being single and being married; being divorced and being widowed; parents and parenting; children and “childrening;” school and car pool; work of every kind; making money, spending money, and giving money away; friends and fun; and all the rest.
As with many, the ministries of Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have been instrumental in my formation. Through their teaching and by the grace of God, the contours and the fine structure of “what cannot be seen” continue to emerge with ever-increasing clarity. And they provide a vocabulary by which first to understand and then to explain to others this with-God life that we are offered in Jesus. Those who have had a similar experience will see it immediately. Even so, I must acknowledge that in the text of this article are interwoven many ideas and phrases that are theirs and not mine. Although at this point, I must concentrate carefully to draw that distinction, so pervasive has been their affect on my thinking, for which I am very grateful. > Justin Campbell
And in the Kingdom it all counts; it’s all sacred. “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in behalf of Jesus, as if he were doing it, giving thanks to the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 paraphrase). Oh yes, and remember that Gandhi said that he would be a Christian if Christians were like Jesus. So be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you, and to do it gently and with respect. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
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Book Club Impact
Quotes from current members
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Find Trevor Hudson’s new book at: www.Renovare.org 31 : EXPRESSIONS OCTOBER 2013 : 31
HOLY SPIRIT HERE AND NOW By Trevor Hudson
My deep desire in writing Holy Spirit Here and Now can be summarized very
simply. I wanted to encourage those who read the book to recognize and to respond to the Spirit of God who is always lovingly present and active in our lives, from our very beginnings, in every encounter, in our daily work, in our communities, indeed throughout the whole universe. This for me is the wonderful, breathtaking good news about the Holy Spirit that I wanted to share.
However, in writing the book I was very aware that many people feel like a
second-class Christian when it comes to an awareness of the Holy Spirit. They hear others speak confidently about their experiences of the Spirit, either at church or while looking at certain TV programs. They feel left out of such happenings. They then end up thinking that experiences of the Holy Spirit come to religious professionals, or those inclined to special spiritual experiences, or to the really weird – but not to them. As I wrote this book I was hoping that people like this would begin to recognize that the Holy Spirit was already at work within them.
I was also extremely conscious that some people reading the book may have
had very painful experiences related to the Holy Spirit. I always think of my own mother in this regard. She very seldom went to church. On one occasion when she attended, well-meaning people took her into a side-room and prayed for her “to receive the Spirit.” She was pressed to speak in tongues. This event traumatized her. Only years later, in response to the gentle, thoughtful ministry of one of my colleagues, did she attend church again. I wanted to encourage those who had been through similar experiences to not let their fear and hurt close them off from being open to the Spirit.
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But I was also very aware that there are many people who are looking for
“something more” in their relationship with God. They are tired of a superficial, shallow, and second-hand faith. They long for intimate interaction with the living God. They yearn to know the fire of God’s presence burning in their hearts. They know that unless God becomes more of a living reality for them, they may as well throw in the towel when it comes to their relationship with God. In the book I wanted to explore some simple ways that they could open their lives more fully to the Spirit who is always present and at work in our lives.
In encouraging readers to recognize and respond to the Holy Spirit, I turn
frequently to what the biblical writers say about these matters. I also share some stories of my own struggles and joys in my efforts to become more responsive to the Holy Spirit, as well as reflect on some encounters that friends and colleagues have had of the Spirit. At the end of each chapter, I describe a simple practice that hopefully will help the reader to interact more intentionally with the Holy Spirit. I follow this practice with some thoughts and wonderings that might lead to some good conversation if you are reading this book with others.
In closing, I want to say that our whole life with God is lived “in the Holy
Spirit.” As I seek to make clear in the book, it is the Holy Spirit who brings us alive to God in the first place, draws us into fellowship with others, changes us inwardly into Christlikeness, guides us into faithful decision-making, empowers us to witness to our faith, and engages us in effective ministry with those who suffer and struggle. If, through the pages of Holy Spirit Here and Now, these things begin to happen in the life of any reader, the book will have served its purpose.
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> Trevor Hudson
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AN INTERVIEW WITH EMILY P. FREEMAN Taken from the Simplicity Podcast with Bradley Burck
I have a special guest for us today on the Simplicity Podcast. It’s Emily P. Freeman. Emily has a blog called “Chatting at the Sky.” She is the author of three books, but the one that I read most recently was Grace for the Good Girl. You might ask, “Bradley, why are you reading a book called Grace for the Good Girl?” Emily and I are going to talk about that as we go along. Emily, how are you today?
I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.
Before we get into this, I am curious about the title of your blog. What is “Chatting at the Sky” and where did it come from?
“Chatting at the Sky” is from a lyric in a Sarah Mason song. The song is called “Tuesday” because the girl in the song is running and running on a Tuesday. The lyric actually says, “I was running and running without a chance to stop and chat at the sky.” I remember when I started the blog, I had two-year old twin girls at home. I had no coherent thought that I could keep in one spot. Then I heard about blogging. I thought, “I could write things down and they could stay in one spot.” The only thing I had in my head was a title. That Sarah Mason song always meant a lot to me because it forced me to slow down and really consider the day and where I am. To just have a moment. That’s where the title comes from
Grace for the Good Girl. What does that title mean? What were you trying to convey to the people who were going to read this?
Titling a book is hard. That is the first thing people see. Everybody judges a book by its cover, even though they say you’re not supposed to do that. This book was born out of my growing up in the church, growing up doing all the “right” things. I grew up doing what I thought you were supposed to do. I met Jesus when I was seven. I was good before I met him. I was good
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after I met him. I was that way all through college. I never had a rebellious time. I went to Bible college and learned a lot about obedience, a lot about discipline, a lot about holiness. I started to realize that I didn’t know about grace. I thought I knew about grace. I knew it was getting what you don’t deserve. But, I didn’t know what that really meant in day-to-day life. I remember reading a verse (I don’t remember what verse it was), but I remember thinking, “I don’t know what grace is.” I said, “I’m going to learn about that.” I did what any good Bible college student does. I did a word study. I was going to learn, and I was going to figure this thing out. It turns out that grace doesn’t really come from study. It comes from a need, a desperate heart and soul need, from a place of brokenness. I had never experienced that. A lot of times people have a moment in time when they can say, “I was broken. I was a mess. This happened. Or that happened. These terrible things happened. God came and then… “ That’s not how it was for me. Mine was a slow, slow awakening to grace. Here’s the reason I wrote the book: My husband’s a youth pastor. So I started working with high school girls. I realized that these girls are living my same story. These girls are doing all the right things and living this try-hard life. They’re doing the right things at the right time. They’re getting accolades and all of the adults tell them, “Good job. That’s what we want you to do.” Meanwhile, all these girls are anxious. They are losing sleep. They are struggling just to get through the day. On the outside they’re looking great. They are believers, but it’s almost like they worship a dead Jesus. He’s not alive for them. What does that mean for them right now? When I started writing this book, I pitched it to my publisher for high school girls. They agreed they wanted it for high school girls, but they also wanted it for women, grown-up people. We went round and round with lots of different titles. Then you realize, none of us are good. We can’t be good. We need grace.
Even the best of us are not good.
It’s kind of funny. Once you get into it you realize that “good girl” isn’t really a person, it’s more of an invisible someone who lives in your head and is an imaginary version of yourself who does everything the right way. I think all women struggle with the “good girl.” Some of us measure up to her better than others; but she’s always there shaming us in our heads. >
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All of these things you wrote about really connected deeply with me even though the book was Grace for the Good Girl. As I’m reading, it’s really “grace for the good boy, good person.” It’s part of the Christian culture, but it’s also part of our society where people are just pushed to be good. How do people shed these masks that you’re talking about? How do they move away from the try-hard life and move towards the with-God life? What’s the process that you went through? What can we do or not do to begin to change?
A few things come to mind as I listen to you talk. One is trying to understand and get a grip on what grace really is. It’s almost like taking a straw to the beach and trying to sip the ocean. This is impossible to grasp and to understand. The first thing I think is: I don’t want to get grace; I don’t want to understand grace. I want grace to get me. I want to get caught. I want to be captured by the love of God and his grace for me. I read a quote recently, I think it was by Andrew Murray. He said, “God doesn’t love you because you are clever. He doesn’t love you because you are good. He loves you because he is your Father.” Women ask me all the time, “How do I do this?” If they’ve already read my book and they ask, I can clearly say, “I’m not the one to help you.” The first way is to stop asking that question. It’s really the wrong question. It’s a matter of trusting that there really is nothing you can do, believing that everything that can be done was done on the cross, and actually learning what it might look like to sit down on the inside. If you’re like me and really start to get present with what is going on in this moment, a lot of times I can be sitting down on the outside and running a marathon on the inside.
Your mind keeps going but you can look still. It’s beautiful when you can start to understand the opposite – you can be running a marathon on the outside, but calm on the inside. I don’t remember when the whole “What Would Jesus Do” thing came out. Some of today’s high school students still have that mentality. “Whatever Jesus did when he came to earth, we have to copy him.” But it’s such a separation – he’s over there and I’m over here. I believe that is a false gospel, a false way of seeing things. It’s really a matter of knowing that Jesus came to earth so that he could die for me. Now he lives in me and he wants to live through me. He wants to filter through my skill or my lack or my weakness. In my weakness, he’s strong. In all of those things it is really getting in touch with what is my truth right now. It is believing that he is with me this very moment. It is calming and coming to a place of understanding his (I love how you say it) with-God life.
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Tell us what your next book will be about?
I’d love to. It’s called A Million Little Ways. It comes out in the fall of 2013. Good Girl and Graceful, the youth version, were written over a period of ten years in my mind and my heart and my life. This third book scares me to death. This third book is Emily’s more present tense. I’ve been working this out already. Insight came from an email a friend sent me the year my first book came out. Another writer friend and I were writing back and forth. It was New Year’s Eve, 2010. I wrote to her, “I’m terrified about 2011. My guts are going to be on sale at Barnes and Noble.” She felt the same way. She had a book coming out too. She said something that has changed my life in the way I am choosing to live it. What she said was, “In 2011, we will make art.” Three things stand out. She didn’t give me advice. And she didn’t run away from our fears. And, the third thing was that she included herself in it with me. “We will make art.” “Hold on,” I thought. Courage showed up to the party for me in that moment. I started writing out my thoughts. What would it mean to make art this year? Not just with my writing, but with my life. How does that look? How does that look for my relationships? How does that look for my work? How does that look for my parenting and my washing the dishes or my showing up for an interview? It’s across the board. The more I thought about and wrote about it and talked about it with people, the more I realized that’s more what I believe God intends for our lives: to look so much more like a poem and less like a program, more like a lyric and less like a list. That’s what this book has really dug into. Women who read Good Girl, come to me and say, “What’s next?” This book is what’s next. But it’s not just for good girls and women. I’ve got men who are reading it. I’ve had men come to me and say, sort of sideways at church, “I’m reading your book.” “You mean Grace for the Good Girl?” “Well, my fiancée, she’s a good girl and she asked me to read it.” I’m excited about this next book. I’m scared. I’m excited because it feels alive for me right now. It feels a little risky, but sometimes I think good things come when we take a risk.
When you do this now, any time you launch a book, you have the opportunity to go into “good girl” mode, right?
Any time you wake up is an opportunity for “good girl” mode, don’t you think? >
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Launching a book is a pretty big deal. Like you said, you’re putting yourself out there. If you’re like me, that opportunity to fail kicks me into “I’ve got to put on that mask of I am invincible and I am the sales guy. I am this and I’ve got to go out and move units of this book.” How are you going to deal with that?
It’s a fight I enter into every day even when I’m not launching a book because I always have books for sale. It’s definitely about getting into a mindset of knowing that there are no greener grasses, just different lawns. My Dad often says something that has really helped me. He talks about how you’ve just got to stay in your corner of the pool. What he means is that you can’t lifeguard the whole pool and you can’t swim in the whole pool at once. You can occupy a corner. I’ve thought about how bestselling authors are doing it, book signings, conferences, etc. Then I think, “That’s not my corner of the pool.” I’m passionate about a few things and I believe that I have been entrusted with a few things that are very important to me and make me come alive. When I start looking at what makes other people come alive, I start to die a little on the inside. It’s an everyday refocusing. Some days I do it better than others, but it’s harder when a book comes out. Now you have a way to measure your worth in numbers, actual numbers. That is definitely a fight. I believe to win means really embracing my calling over and over again.
Thank you for being on the Simplicity podcast Emily P. Freeman!
You can listen to this interview on iTunes or on the Renovaré Blog: http://blog.renovare.org/simplicity
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WHAT IS A PODCAST? pod • cast /’päd,kast/ Noun - A multimedia digital file made available on the Internet for downloading to a portable media player, computer, etc.
Renovaré has several audio podcasts that you should listen to and share with your friends and others you know who are interested in the topic of Spiritual Formation. The new Simplicity podcast challenges listeners to find new ways to live simply and to create space and opportunity to draw closer to God. Each episode is hosted by Bradley Burck and features Renovaré Ministry Team members and special guests who are actively writing, thinking, and speaking about Spiritual Formation and the ideas of simplicity and spirituality.
14,000 Feet with Nathan Foster is a podcast focusing on the essentials of Chrstian Spiritual Formation and applying those essentials to real life. If you’ve been a Christian all your life or are on a spiritual journey, this podcast will challenge your assumptions about living out the Christian faith.
There are many ways to listen: You can listen on your computer, tablet or phone by simply visiting: www.Renovare.org. You can also go to iTunes or any other podcasting service and simply search for Renovaré.
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OCTOBER 2013 : 39
By Julia Roller
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Most of my life I’ve lived in places where the passage of time was marked by the changing of the seasons. As the weather grew warmer and wetter, I would look forward to the flowers and lengthening days of spring. As it grew hotter and dryer, the vacations and leisure of summer. The cooling air helped me anticipate changing leaves and football games. And, finally, as those orange, yellow, and red leaves turned brown and started to fall, and our coats and scarves came out of hibernation, I knew that Advent was on its way, signaling the close of another year.
though it is often warm enough in December to wear a sundress, no one ever does. (At least not any locals.) Without the weather to make it obvious for us, we make our own seasons, because marking the years this way is important. It matters.
In San Diego, where my family and I live now, the weather is beautiful but it is the same much of the year. I miss the delight, the anticipation, and the reflection prompted by each seasonal change.
To me, Advent represents the perfect opportunity to take stock, to reflect, whether you know it’s here because of changes in the weather, because wrapping paper is on display at Target, or from your church calendar. Yet even as Advent calls us to reflect, at the same time we are looking forward with a heightened sense of anticipation to Christmas just around the corner. This anticipation, this delicious feeling of excitement about what is to come, is one of the reasons I (and my children) love Advent so much.
Here the signs are much more subtle. You have to pay close attention to the persistence of the fog or the time of the sunset. Or you can give up and just let yourself be guided by the inventory of the local stores. But even here in the land without seasons, there seems to be a general agreement that these seasons are, in fact, important. I’ve noticed that southern Californians almost manufacture seasons, with parkas and knit caps coming out as soon as the temperature drops below 60 degrees. And even
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Such signaling allows us to feel the wistfulness of the ending of one thing and the excitement of the beginning of another. It helps to remind us of time passing and to take stock of where we are and what God has done and is doing in our lives.
As one of the characters in Marcus Borg’s novel, Putting Away Childish Things, comments, celebrating Advent is a lot like being pregnant. And being pregnant is something I know a thing – well, two things – about. You see, as wonderful and beautiful as that experi-
ence can be, it’s not so much a season you celebrate in its own right but one you celebrate as a harbinger of great and life-changing things to come. It is a time of preparation and extreme anticipation, a time of waiting, in nervous and excited hope, for that which will come to pass. There’s so much joy to be had from looking forward to something special. Anticipation is a key part of celebration, and Advent offers us the opportunity to deliberately and joyfully engage in this practice, as we anticipate nothing less than the coming of Jesus. As our kids have gotten out of the toddler stage, we’ve started to look for our own traditions to mark and to celebrate Advent. My husband’s family would make an Advent wreath together
at church and then light the candles every Sunday night while they read together a brief Bible passage and reflection. When I think back to Advent, I remember preparing for a big Christmas Eve family party every year. One year in particular I spent the entire fall making my own Nativity scene in Sunday school class.
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Our memories have in common the physical creation of something to mark the season, and when it came time to make our own Advent tradition, I wanted to carry that forward in our own family. But I also wanted something special that combined the dual senses of reflection and anticipation that make Advent so special. And, since we are celebrating with small children, we wanted to channel that anticipation into something other than, well, presents. The answer for us came when we thought about what Christmas represented for us. Our nuclear family of four is a kind of satellite location for both sides of our extended families, which are centered in Northern California and the St. Louis area. Christmas is one of the few times each year we travel to one place or the other to come together as a large extended family. We realized that for our family, the celebration centered around just being together in formulations that inevitably occur only at Christmastime. Being jammed together in a house with cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents had become, not the precursor to the celebration, but the celebration itself, the event we anticipated.
This understanding came as something of a surprise to me because I generally don’t like crowds. I am more of an introvert, who usually prefers a gathering of a few to a gathering of many. But celebration isn’t something you do by yourself. It’s about your community, however you define it. The coming of Jesus is something that calls for togetherness. That first Christmas was no different. It wasn’t just Mary and Joseph and their new progeny in that stable. There were shepherds and Magi, and surely the innkeeper and his wife stopped in to see the new baby. If that Nativity scene I made all those years ago is anything to go by, it must have been one crowded stable. Yet each visitor must have also added to the feeling of joy, of celebration, the feeling that something had happened there that was important enough for all of these people to stop what they were doing and take notice together. To maintain this focus on togetherness, in addition to our usual Advent devotional, this year I’m going to create a different kind of Advent calendar. Instead of windows that open to reveal chocolates, this calendar will hold pictures of the members of our extended family – both those we’ll see this year and those we won’t, even those my children will never know in this life. Each day when we open up the window
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to see the face of that person, we can talk about what Christ has done and is doing in his or her life. And how excited we are to see them soon. As we light the candles those early winter nights to represent Jesus coming as the light in the darkness, we can think too of the light brought to our lives by each person. In this way I hope to keep that delicious sense of anticipation that is such a special part of Advent focused on God and all God has given us in our family. And as I reflect on the past year throughout Advent, which is often a fairly solitary endeavor, I know I will find myself looking forward more and more to that crazy and crowded time of family togetherness at the height of the season. The kids will inevitably fight, the kitchen will get too crowded, and we will never come to full consensus on what or where to eat, but it will be joyous. It will be a wonderful celebration of the life Christ wanted us to have. > Julia Roller
WHAT ABOUT THOSE WHO ARE WORRIED? By Kyle Strobel
Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. You mention Spiritual Formation, or maybe the name of an author or book, and your conversation partner (a friend, relative, or acquaintance), rather than being excited or interested, is either confused, worried, or frustrated. In my experience, what happens next is particularly interesting; people who you expected to be encouraging actually warn you off what you are reading. You scramble to defend yourself and experience no small amount of confusion. How is this person so negative about something that has been so life-giving to me? How is this person worried about the very teaching that turned me more fully to Christ? Many have left these conversations confused, frustrated, and often searching for a way to avoid contact in the future. I want to shift the direction of these experiences. Instead of avoiding these conversations let me suggest that these are God-given opportunities to be faith-
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ful to Christ. These conversations should be both expected and valued. If we really believe that Spiritual Formation serves to guide us faithfully in the service of Christ, then we should expect to receive harsh pushback on it. The healthiness of a conversation like Spiritual Formation depends on how we respond to these kinds of questions and even attacks. What do we do when people are worried about our approach to the Christian life? Let me answer this with key questions we should ask and important ways we can enter these discussions faithfully.
Every Christian Believes in Spiritual Formation First, we have to keep in mind that every Christian believes in Spiritual Formation. Spiritual Formation is simply the Spirit’s work of transforming us into the image of Christ, and therefore, necessarily includes a depiction of our own practices and experiences. You might have a different view of Spiritual Forma-
tion than someone else, and they might reject the term, but either way, you both believe that the Spirit is at work and we can talk about that experience (or lack) of it. Whether your conversation partners know it or not, they believe these things as much as you do. The key is to unveil the common ground that exists below the surface and use it as an opportunity to grow together. The first questions we need to ask concern their worries. What is actually driving their concerns? Where have they heard that Spiritual Formation is dangerous, and what was that person’s agenda? What is at the heart of their criticism? To be faithful to the Lord in humility, we have to affirm that some of these criticisms may be true. Instead of trying to defend ourselves, this is an opportunity to walk with a brother or sister in the Lord, to meditate together on our call in Christ. We need to bring to the table all the ways the Lord has taught us and grown us in his image, but also affirm that we don’t have it all together. This will push against one of the major mistakes I see in Spiritual Formation conversations: the rejection of those who do not see things as we do. Instead of moving in humility, we isolate ourselves from the broader church. If any Christian should be open to those who disagree with them it is those in the Spiritual Formation conversation, and yet I find that is rarely the case. Instead, Spiritual Formation becomes something
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of a hobby. We surround ourselves with others who like the same hobby and when others don’t “get it,” we just move on. I think it is imperative that we learn to walk alongside those who disagree with us or are even worried about us, and use that as fodder before our Lord. The next question concerns why we use the language we do. Many people show concern about something simply because terms seem foreign to them. Don’t underestimate the importance of language. Many people are worried about new terms that are foreign to them. Also, many Protestants believe that Roman Catholicism is a constant temptation for Protestantism, and since the term “Spiritual Formation” has its roots in the Roman Catholic tradition they might see this as a sign that you are becoming “Catholic.” Find out the kind of language they use to talk about the Christian life. Do they simply prefer the term “Christian life?” If so, fine. Use that term. The terminology we develop to talk about these things is not sacred ground. Don’t let semantics get in the way from genuinely engaging the real issue of life with God. From this point, it is necessary to lead with the gospel. If there are really deep worries about Spiritual Formation, they derive from a truncated gospel. Maybe they believe that God has offered them forgiveness and that is all, and so they can’t fathom why a deeper Chris- >
tian existence is necessary (they just take forgiveness and go home). Maybe they have come to think about their relationship with God in solely legal terms, and therefore have no need for a deep relationship with Christ. Either way, we need to push back to the foundation of formation in the gospel, which means we need to start with God’s self-giving in Christ. In Christ, by the Spirit, we now have access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18). In Christ we are adopted into the family of God (Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 2:19). In the Spirit, we now pray the prayer of Jesus, “Abba! Father!” because we are children of God (Galatians 4:6-7). Life with God is a continual embrace of this self-giving in Christ and the Spirit. It is the spiritual life – life in Christ by the Holy Spirit of God. This is good news! We have been ushered into God’s life to such a degree that we can say with Peter that we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). Second, and building on this, we have to affirm their worries. This might seem counter-intuitive. But if we are on the narrow path we are inevitably beset on all sides by temptation to false ideas and ways. We do not have it all figured out, and we might actually be giving into temptation without knowing it. In other words, when we start with the depth of the gospel, we do not simply preach it at them, but enter into the truth of it with them. We must do this with fresh eyes to see the temptations
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around us, temptations to: try to grow ourselves, adopt sub-Christian forms of spirituality, or to cease to “grow up” into Christ, our head (Ephesians 4:15). Furthermore, and this is key, the way of Spiritual Formation, the way of Christ, is always the way of love (1 Corinthians 13). Our call in these conversations is to walk in that way. Importantly, our goal is not to win. Being seen as “right” is not the goal. Having the person admit you know more, or are more holy or mature, is not the goal. The goal is to walk with this person in love. In 1 Corinthians Paul addresses what it might mean to walk in the way of love with brothers and sisters who see things differently than you. In his context the concern was eating food sacrificed to idols, a major issue in the earliest church. Note what Paul says, “And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:11-12). Paul goes on to say that he would rather not eat meat at all in case he might make a brother stumble. I find that we are often much less gracious. Our calling with “weaker” brothers and sisters is not to make them like us, but to love them as brothers or sisters for whom Christ died. It could be that we are called to lay down things we value, things we do not want to lay down (a certain author,
practice, or language), but we do so because we are not called to generate deep spiritual experiences but to walk communally in the Spirit in love.
Conclusion After I started a ministry in Spiritual Formation and wrote my first book, I was attacked viciously online because I talked about Spiritual Formation. My first reaction was the desire to react in kind. How could I destroy this organization? was, sadly, the initial question of my heart. Then I brought this before the Lord. In the midst of my anger was pain, confusion, and frustration. Fear was reigning where Christ should be. I realized my desire to do whatever I wanted was born out of a certain kind of laziness. That realization sent me on a journey to be faithful to my tradition and to those brought by the Lord under my care. Because of that, I turned to Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), one of the most beloved and accepted Protestant thinkers. In his own day, Edwards was attacked for his spirituality and was linked to radical groups that he had no relationship with (sound familiar?). In Edwards I found two things: someone in history who grappled with my current frustrations and a spiritual writer that the weaker brother values. Edwards became the ground by which I respond to critics of Spiritual Formation, not to assert my own opinion through another, but to sit at the feet of the spiritual masters of my
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own tradition. From Edwards and others, I have learned how to better bless and minister to those called under my care. (This turned into a writing project that is called Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (IVP, 2013).) In many ways, this book outlines my approach to these conversations. Let’s start with the depths of the gospel, talk about the language we use and the tradition we are in (for me, evangelicalism), and find the common ground on which to walk together in love. This is our calling. Along this path are the temptations to win, to dominate, or even to write off another Christian. The last is perhaps the most disconcerting and yet most prevalent; it leads to the ironic end of rejecting another you are called to love in the name of the way of love. Our call is something different; it is to embrace this way of love, that is always the way of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:17; Galatians 5:11, 6:14; Philippians 2:5-8), and necessarily the way of weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). But Christ is sufficient here too, and our call into fellowship with him in grace is the abiding call of love that upholds us even in these moments. > Kyle Strobel
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By George Skramstad
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At the age of twelve, I remember the first time I heard the golden tones and
glorious shape of the melodic lines produced by the renowned violinist, Isaac Stern. The mystery of how such precision and artistry could be combined to spellbind an audience was indeed a phenomenon. To a neophyte violin student, such beauty and bravura seemed more of a dream than a possible reality. But down deep in my spirit, something began to churn that said, “If I were the best violin player on earth, I’d like to play like him!” I desired to own his recordings, to attend his concerts, and to become familiar with how he interpreted the great violin literature. I began recognizing his playing, his sound.
During those years I began to develop my own style, my own tone, and my
own abilities. I heard stories of musicians who rehearsed eight to ten hours a day. For me, practice proceeded through phases of deep commitment as well as periods of sloth and dislike. Underlying all of this was the measuring stick of my own progress: the success and brilliance of Isaac Stern. It was what I remembered and experienced that shaped my idea and expectation of my musical journey. Isaac Stern and his marvelous virtuosity became a tool by which I could identify where I was in my musical progress. He served as a marker that brought the reality and quality of my own playing to light. I recognized my own glaring inadequacies when I witnessed who Mr. Stern was.
The Focus of Worship. Worship, when it is authentic and Christocentric,
allows us to see who God is. Worship is ultimately a window through which we see the face of God, experience the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ, and sense the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We are another step closer in our own relationship with God when we have truly been in worship where he is revealed. When I see who I am in relationship to the white-hot heat of God’s pure love and grace, I am made painfully aware of my own inadequacies, my need.
We can liken our experience of worship to that of the prophet Isaiah, who
exclaims, “Woe to me! . . . I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live
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among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.
“Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he
had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, ‘See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.’ “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’
“And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:5-8, NIV).
Identity for the Christian is found in the very roots of worship. Both sin and
grace are experienced in the process. Once we see the glory and majesty of God, we recognize our inadequate little minds and selfish hearts. The worthless and rationalizing words that spill from our mouths now become caught as lumps in our throats. We agonize over the vileness of our desires and ache to be like the Father. And in the middle of the battle comes the extension of God’s grace that sets us free to play, to worship, to serve, to live, and to be living ambassadors of Christ to a hurting world.
Whether worship takes place in our private devotional time, in a small group,
or in a large corporate setting, the results are the same. Our identity is established by the One we worship and the practice of doing it. Why should we not worship when this is the only discipline of the earthly Christian life that will continue into and throughout eternity?
A Convergence of Worship. In our world today we see a great convergence of emphasis upon worship. The importance of the right way to worship concerns many. Some proclaim that we must return to the ancient worship liturgies of the second century. Others urge us to incorporate more contemporary expressions of the arts and technical mediums of our day. We witness less congruency of worship practice between congregations within the same denomination than
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ever before. What is right? What is valuable? What brings honor to the God we worship? These are the questions that we must grapple with mightily. From The Report of the Theological Commission on Worship, Fourth World Conference on Faith and Order come these statements: “We do not find in the Bible . . . an attempt to systematize . . . variety or to evaluate various types of worship over against each other . . . There is no preference for corporate worship as against a private worship, or vice versa. There is no competition between a sacramental worship and a type of worship centered around the preaching of the word and prayers. There is no sign that difference between spontaneous prayer and the use of ‘fixed formularies’ caused any controversy, although both types of prayer are evidently there. The tendency to standardize a specific type of worship . . . is alien to the Bible. There is in the New Testament a greater variety of forms and expression of worship than in the majority of divided churches and traditions today.” If I were to relate our current worship practices to my own early years of learning to play the violin, I would first need to recognize the model that my heart and mind are trying to emulate. No other but our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ could be that center, that ultimate psalmist, that personality who mirrored the heart of the Creator, his Father. He became, as one writer has expressed, the “Lord of the Dance.” Christ’s worship, which was to do the will of the Father, leads us to the elements he lived out for us.
Our Model and Our Task. Christ’s exaltation of God as the Maker and
Giver of salvation; his thanksgiving for life and all of its blessings; his confession of who he was in light of his relationship to his Father; his transparency of not wanting to go through the Passion and death on the cross; his affirmation of God the Father; his joy of serving; his respect for the personhood of all people; his prayers and worship both privately and corporately to the Father; and his continual abiding in the function as well as the attitude of worship give us worship practice examples.
From what should we take our cue as we are in the second millennium? >
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Could it be something as simple as allowing the Christ we celebrate by the revelation of his Holy Spirit to lead us into meaningful worship? Could it be that we continue to invest the event of Christ with interpretation and meaning? Could it be that we transmit the continuing life of the Word through forms which declare its authenticity and power? Could it be that we continue to use the worship traditions of the past as well as inculcate new ones? I resonate with what Paul Waitman Hoon says in his book, The Integrity of Worship: “The Spirit is as much the source of continuity, of order, and of heritage as it is of newness and freedom; and it is this truth which those who reject tradition conveniently ignore. Present-tense or future-tense theologies cannot be permitted to stake out a monopoly on the doctrine of the Spirit. The Spirit’s reality is to be marked as much by what it has done as by what it is doing or shall do; and out of its richness the wise man brings forth treasures both new and old.”
Worship must be given primacy within the Christian community. Without it,
the visage of Christ is blurred and oftentimes lost. It is through worship and its icons that Christ is revealed to us. A Christocentric focus must always be present. Texts, actions, hymns, movements, liturgies, and silences must all point to the life and example of Christ. In worship we tell the story of God’s creating and redemptive work through Christ. And we must wisely decide to tell that story through the rudiments born out of the past while consciously choosing to incorporate new ones.
Doing so authenticates our identity in Christ. It becomes as sacramental as
the bread we eat and the wine we drink. Our life is changed. At one time, we had no identity. But now we are the people of God. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pet. 2:9-10, NIV). Through worship we become a people, a people with identity.
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What is Worship? In the Renovaré approach to worship, we attempt
to blend the past, the present, and the future. This blending best expresses the various streams of our faith – Contemplative, Holiness, Charismatic, Social Justice, Holiness, Incarnational. We cannot afford to throw away the prayers of St. Francis. Nor can we refuse without loss the singing of Bill and Gloria Gaither’s hymn, “Because He Lives.” How fulfilling it is for me personally to lead worship in a manner that embraces all of creation, all of the arts, and all of the elements extended to us through God’s abundant grace.
Let me share with you my defining process of worship: Worship is that
moment in Christian celebration when we see God’s children touch the hem of Christ’s garment as did the woman in need. We seek, we come, and we reach to the God who waits to meet us where we are. At that moment, we see who God is, realize who we are, and accept who he desires us to become. This is transformation from the old into the new spirit born through faith in Jesus Christ.
Worship is the process whereby we thank, we praise, we honor, we confess,
we celebrate, and we purpose to the God of all life through his Son, Jesus Christ, that we are his daughters and sons. Therefore, worship is filled with ingredients which allow us to focus and to express our love and appreciation: singing, giving, praying, reading, teaching, preaching, enacting, responding, baptizing, dedicating, communing, partaking, and sharing.
Ultimate worship takes place when we, like children,
find ourselves climbing into the lap of our heavenly Father with the desire just to be with him. At that moment there is no agenda other than to sit in his presence, to love him, to whisper in his ear our gratitude, to feel his face, to hear his heart, to rest in his embrace, to enjoy the moment, and to understand more fully the God who yearns to enjoy us.
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> George Skramstad
MEET GEORGE SKRAMSTAD By Rachel Quan George Skramstad has been with the Renovaré Ministry Team for 16 years and so for many of you, he is not a new face. In fact, George is known to many people because of his beautiful worship leadership at many of our events through the years. This past year, George became a member of the Renovaré Board of Trustees. I came to know George while working with him on the programming for the Renovaré International Conference in 2009. His heart, his passion, and his wisdom consistently speak to those he is around. The production team came to love George who exhibited Jesus as he kindly cared for those he worked with and graciously handled the issues that come about when working with many moving parts. At our June board meeting, George was our morning “wake up” call. He walked up and down the halls of the retreat center and played his violin, helping us begin our day. I found myself tearing up as I heard the strings of his instrument play “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” and “This is My Father’s World.” > George Skramstad & Jon Baliey George knows worship. And, as the team looked to the Thanksgiving and Advent season, we found ourselves asking about the significance of who we are and how we are in worship. A number of years ago, George wrote the prior article. And today it still holds true. As you prepare for a time of thanksgiving and anticipation, I encourage you to read his words and think of how God is calling you into a relationship through the heart of worship.
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By Rachel Quan
This was an unfamiliar pathway that changed my life significantly. My prayer life changed. 30-45 minutes in silence together went by in the blink of an eye. This group, affectionately known as “The Birds,” has provided years of support, comfort, wisdom, insight, and care in
It was joyful and fun and, as our fellow “Bird” Martha Moore would say, “Like standing on your tiptoes in anticipation!” We would go to Anne’s townhome and eat cookies, share stories, laugh hard, and take time for quiet reflection. My prayer group has sometimes done our “Advent Listening” at a local convent together. I have learned from Anne that preparing my heart for Advent – clearing the cobwebs in my soul, purposefully deciding to simplify our lives this time of year, giving gifts that speak to the heart, taking the time to > “The Birds”; (left to right) Rachel Quan, Martha Moore, Anne invite Jesus into our home – Grizzle, Donna Kallmeyer, (not pictured, Margaret Campbell) completely changed my ways I could never describe. I cannot perspective by the time Christmas begin to tell you the life lived together, came and the New Year began. much of it in silence and prayer. This was a gift I would never have known Preparation changes everything. had I not agreed to walk down this Preparation changes my focus. Preparaunfamiliar path. tion rekindles in me an eagerness and a desire for a closer relationship with In the same way, although we celJesus. Preparation is “standing on my ebrated Advent in my church and had tiptoes in anticipation!” I’ve heard a beautiful tradition in my own home somewhere the thought that heaven at Christmas, I had not thought much held its collective breath, and then, through the years about what “preparupon hearing the voice of God in ing” for Advent looked like. Again, my human form, the cry of a baby, it burst friend Anne had much to do with kindly forth into song – “Glory to God in the modeling this for me. Each year, she highest!” That’s where I want my prepawould invite a group of women to her ration to lead – to joy! home for a time that involved quiet listening, the reading of Scripture, and I’ve had a few friends worry that the sharing of stories. I learned from “preparing for Advent” meant giving up Anne that the sacred wasn’t all somber. the things they loved about this time of
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the year. This isn’t the case at all in my preparation. Part of me is wired for the love of decorating and cooking and one of the gifts my family is known for is our hospitality. But, it’s become a different rhythm through the years. I thought I’d share with you the ways in which the Quan family prepares. SILENCE & SOLITUDE • A day of silence comes around the end of November, before Thanksgiving. I am blessed to live near several retreat centers that offer this type of thing for a small cost. I am also blessed to have friends in ministry who offer days like this at various locations. However I get there or wherever I go, one day of silence, reflection, and listening helps me clear my head and focus. How did Jesus come? Why did Jesus come? Where is Jesus in the midst of my life right now? You might not have a retreat center to go to or be able to find a full day of silence because you are the primary caregiver to wonderful, noisy children. Take a half day if you’re able. Or take an hour before everyone wakes up. Or lay in bed for fifteen minutes in the morning. The purpose is to find a way to clear your head and open your heart. • Continue the silence and solitude into the season. Most mornings I start my day in “the” chair downstairs in our living room. Quiet music occasionally, a cup of coffee (always), an Advent reading. Sometimes just silence and a cup of
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coffee. What has happened as a result for me? The silence and solitude follow me into the new year and have now become a way to start every day. SIMPLICTY • Commit to what the next weeks will look like (or not look like) for you. For some of us, that means sitting by ourselves and writing down our commitment. For others of us, it means sitting down with our spouse and family and writing down our commitment together. What are we committed to as a family to keep the “noise” down? What are you committed to as an individual to keep the “hurry” out? • This may sound bizarre, but the commitment starts early for us – all the way back in the summer. That’s when we begin our gift-buying. Instead of waiting until the month of December and feeling harried and over-spending, we commit to looking early. We come across gifts that remind us of the people in our life and we buy them along the way instead of waiting until the month of December – when we will then overspend and often settle for something that isn’t even a good match for the recipient. • We keep the schedule clear. We decide what we will say “yes” to and “no” to. We are known for a “sometimesannual” tamale and dessert party. But, there have been some years when we >
have been weary and tired and we’ve just said, “No, we won’t do that this year because it is more than we are able to do and maintain our good rhythms.” Instead, we opt for small dinners with friends, or breakfasts on Saturday mornings, or evenings of coffee and dessert with a few friends. • We have determined that we will give gifts that matter. Last year it was two coffee mugs, coffee from a favorite Texas coffee company, and a note that encouraged the people in our family to take time for conversation and the building of relationship. We include in our Christmas card all of our favorite charities/ministries and ask people to join us in giving to them instead of spending lots of money on the Christmas trimmings. We give gifts to our favorite charities “on behalf of” my husband’s clients who don’t need one more fruit and chocolate basket. We really love Advent Conspiracy (www.adventconspiracy.org) who encourage gifts “on behalf of” or “instead of” and remind us that the gift of relationship is the best thing we can “give.” • Simplicity follows us all the way to Christmas Eve, where you will oft find 30-40 members of our families stuffed into our townhome. In the old days I would envision this grand party with an elaborate menu and hours and hours of cooking and baking preparation. Then
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I got tired. So for over a decade now, it is called our “Annual Jook and Curry Night.” We embrace our Asian heritage and simplify. Jook is a poor-man’s por-
> Christmas Eve Jook
ridge made with the bones of any meat you can find (in our case, turkey wings), rice, and water. I learned to make it in a crock pot. I make a large pot of curry and leave it on the stove. My motherin-law brings a giant cooker of rice. I make a salad in a giant salad bowl. And we buy (yes, buy!) cookies from one of our favorite bakeries (same kind every year). Then I put out 40 bowls, spoons, and salad plates. We are currently up to three crockpots of Jook because there are so many of us – but how hard is it to throw rice, turkey wings, and water into a crockpot and serve? I gave up “fancy” long ago. Our family loves the “downhome” menu and now it’s expected. Nieces and nephews who aren’t able to join us because they live elsewhere send me Facebook messages on Christmas Eve because they miss the food and
weather is coming. Secondly, I love Christmas music so my family has to indulge me. Finally, Advent doesn’t have to be relegated to only the four Sundays of December. There is something about a bit of preparation that begins long before the actual season that really does place my heart in the right place by the time the first Sunday of Advent comes.
> Quan family Advent wreath
the fellowship. And some of them have even started this tradition in their own neck of the woods. TRADITION • The Advent Wreath is the first item of décor to go up in our home when we break out the Christmas decorations each year. It’s a reminder to us of what we’re really celebrating. And on the Sunday evening of each week of Advent, we have our own devotion (and I will not be shy about recommending the yearly Renovaré Advent devotional!) and light our candle. On the weeknights, for a brief time, we’ll re-light that week’s candle. • Christmas in September… and October and November. At least one Saturday morning in any of these given months you will find me playing Christmas music. First of all, it’s very hot in Houston and it reminds me that cooler
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What does preparation look like for you? How might you begin your “Advent Listening” even now? What will you commit to simplify so that above the din of the commercialized Christmas you might hear the voice of your Savior?
> Rachel Quan
Identity. Community. Mission.
FORMATION FOR WHOLE LIFE. By Marty Troyer
“We often believe that the great difficulty in life is knowing the right thing to do. Sometimes it is. At other times, however, the difficult thing is simply having the inner resources to do what we believe is right.” – The Leader’s Journey, p. 17 On the day I published my first ministry article as The Peace Pastor, I shook with fear. Literally. It was a heartfelt, honest post on the complexities of Christian peacemaking in a violent world. What I wrote isn’t what sticks in my mind. What holds my memory is that following Jesus into public witness requires a deeply secure and differentiated identity and an authentic loving community. I didn’t have enough of either.
In short, my mission had outstripped my spirituality.
What is a Disciple of Jesus? Of course the reverse can also be true: that we place such weight upon spirituality that we never actually do anything by way of ministry. As Henri Nouwen has pointed out in his article, “Moving from Solitude to Community and Ministry,” Jesus in Luke 6 offers us a profound image of formation for whole life. After bringing healing to a wounded man on the Sabbath, Jesus’s detractors were “filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus” (Luke 6:11 NRSV). He moves out of the conflict and into a profound time of Identity formation in solitude with God (6:12). But he does not remain isolated, as if he were merely an individual. He moves to create and sustain an alternative community that together
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with him lives into the reality of God’s design (6:13-16). Only then, when his Identity and Community are secure, does he move back into the act of ministry and preaching (6:17ff ). I love Dallas Willard in The Great Omission, who captures the good news of Jesus by saying, “Nothing less than life in the steps of Christ is adequate to the human soul or the needs of our world.” Life in the footsteps of Christ: this is our goal. I increasingly feel that this life – the life of being a disciple of Jesus Christ – has 3 core components: 1) Transformed Identity, 2) Authentic Community, and 3) Missional Living. At Houston Mennonite Church, we are trying on this definition of what it means to be a disciple: “A Christian disciple is a Transformed person who follows Jesus daily while living interdependently as part of a disciple community who is together on mission with God.” Let’s dig deeper and explore how Formation for Whole Life integrates not just our spiritual lives, but our Identity, Community, and Mission.
IDENTITY For Jesus, everything begins with your Identity and personal transformation: we are the beloved of God. The outpouring of God’s love upon us transforms us at the very core of our being, so much so Jesus related our transformation to a “new birth.” As we experience God’s love, our character changes. The substance of our very being takes on the form of love, and our mission is born. As John says, “First we were loved, and now we love” (1 John 4:19 THE MESSAGE). Perhaps then, it would be better to speak of the “miracles” of love. For it is a miracle that God would choose to love us! As Anne Lamott says, “Thank goodness God’s standards are so low, otherwise how in the world could he ever love me?” > 61 : EXPRESSIONS
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This miraculous, beautiful, empowering love radically changes us, freeing us to naturally love as Christ first loved us. Like a drop of water that ripples out into ever widening circles of love for self, family, neighbor, and even enemy: God’s love for us makes it possible for us to love as well. One of the most dynamic images scripture provides to illustrate the miracle of love is the fruit bearing tree. “Every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.” (Matt 7:16-17 NRSV). Good fruit (the second miracle) only comes from those trees and people who have experienced the miracle of God’s first love. The medieval mystic Meister Eckhart (p. 4, Talks of Instruction) says it this way: “People ought not to consider so much what they are TO DO as what they ARE; let them be good and their ways and deeds will shine brightly. If you are just, your actions will be just too. Do not think that saintliness comes from occupation; it depends rather on what one is... Thus take care that your emphasis is laid on being good and not on the number or kind of thing to be done.” Recently a friend of mine shared with me over coffee how important her being (identity) was to her doing (ministry): “I feel so free right now, like it’s ok to be myself. I lived for decades unable to imagine being honest with my mom. I thought I was ‘loving’ her, but I wasn’t. I was a harmonizer, I was just keeping the peace. Living into self-differentiation for myself – embracing who and how God designed me while remaining connected to others – has matured my faith more than anything I’ve experienced as an adult.” Everything about our Christian life flows out of this robust story: “First we were loved...”
COMMUNITY And now, thanks to the transformative power of that miracle, we become fuller, richer selves as participants in the body of Christ: “… and now we can love.” Paul’s image of church is clear and compelling, “You are the Body of Christ and individually members of it.” We are ONE body, wired together, created in relationship and exhorted to live together in love. AND we are distinct individuals, wonderfully
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unique and beautiful manifestations of the image of God. Like two sides of the same coin, equal weight is placed on our connectivity and individuality. You can’t have either in isolation, because healthy individuals are connected to community. And being a healthy whole is impossible without clearly differentiated and working parts. Both the clarity of our identity and connection to community are intertwined with our calling to join God’s mission in our world. We are Christ’s body, not just any ole’ body; and Christ’s Body – like Christ who provides our cruciform model – is on mission with God for our world. And so our formation must not only form us to recognize and embrace the depth of our belovedness, they must also form us to be interdividuals who see ourselves as One with the Body of Christ. We are members of the alternative community of Christ living into the reality of God’s Kingdom together. I remember a profound moment in worship recently with a community I’d long felt alienated from. As our worship leader broke the common loaf and invited us to the table, I was overcome with a deep sense that “these were my people.” I am one with them in the body of Christ through differences and distance. I was overcome with God’s belovedness for us, and how transforming that love can be. Formation for all of life shapes us to be members of the disciple community.
MISSION Today more than ever we need to connect the missional life with our spiritual life. Dallas Willard in The Divine Conspiracy is vigilant in clarifying which miracle of love comes first. “Jesus knew that we cannot keep the law by trying to keep the law… One must aim to become the kind of person from whom the depths of the law naturally flow. The apple tree naturally and easily produces apples because of its inner nature.” Mission flows out of Identity. In my opening story I said “my mission had outstripped my spirituality.” This was true; but it is also true that my spirituality didn’t fit my mission. New mission or deeper commitment to mission requires new or re-focused spiritual practices. James Furr, President of the Houston Graduate School of Theology, refocused my > day, “You can’t know what God does unless you know who thoughts on this the other God is and how he is.”
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In other words, if I can’t properly see who and how God is, how will I ever join God in mission? Our spirituality must give us eyes to see God at work in our world! In 2009 I preached an entire series on Jesus as a crosser of borders, all based on the Gospel of Mark. For me, seeing clearly that God is present in our world by crossing boundaries, I had no choice but to experiment in crossing some borders I’d erected in my life. I saw God crossing borders… and I joined in by building relationships in Houston’s 5th Ward, a historic black neighborhood, and by connecting with the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center to address wage theft in Houston. New practice led to new eyes led to new mission. Missional Spirituality approaches formation not as a responsibility, but with a sense of wonderment and curiosity. “How do I see God at work in Scripture and human history?” “What is God doing in our world today?” “How is God inviting me to follow?” Formation for whole life takes the focus off my agenda and ingrown selfishness, and increases my view of God and God’s agenda. It’s an adventure in discovering God’s values and creativity.
FORMATION FOR ALL OF LIFE How hungry we are to embrace our belovedness, and to join God on mission! What practices can we do today “in order to gain from God the power to do what we cannot do.” Beyond saying we need to connect the Missional life to the Spiritual life, or the life of Jesus connected to the practices of Jesus, what does this look like? Jesus’s fundamental message: the free availability of God’s rule and righteousness to all of humanity through reliance upon Jesus himself, the person now loose in the world among us.
– Dallas Willard
Formation that captures God’s vision would help me see more clearly:
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My Self. When we encounter Christ, “We become all that God created us to be” (Richard Foster). Formation is our opportunity to bring our full selves before God, and to exchange our vision of self for God’s vision of us. Paul tells us, “This is how you must picture yourself now that you have been initiated into Jesus the Anointer, you are dead to sin’s power and influence, but you are alive to God’s rule” (Romans 6:11 THE MESSAGE).
God and the church. Both the triune God and the body of Christ are diversity in community, related yet distinct. We primarily know this interdependent God through the missio dei: God’s missional presence in our world through sending (Jesus, Spirit, humanity). Thus to be created in the image of God is a statement about our individuality, our interdividuality (wired-togetherness as community), and our calling to be on mission in the world.
The gospel at work in our world. Our Father, who art in heaven is an invitation to orient fully to this God and his coming Kingdom. When we see this pulsing, thriving, living, breathing Kingdom of God present among us, our natural response is praise, prayer, and participation. Jesus came to reveal the full intent and vision of God for our world. Thus we are told “not to fashion yourselves according to the present form of this world, but according to its coming transformation, by renewing your mind….” We renew our minds – we are transformed – by capturing God’s vision of the world as it should be and our place in it.
Formation for whole life is an invitation to see ourselves as God sees us: Beloved Members of the Body of Christ Created for Good Works
Allow me to offer my blessing to your life of faith as I do to my three children each day with these words: Grace to you and peace, may you always know that you are loved, may you always love God, and may you always love every person you meet as Christ loves you AMEN
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> Marty Troyer
www.renovare.org Join the Renovaré community as we
Special Thanks to our Local Lead Team:
venture into a better understanding of what Spiritual Formation for WHOLE life looks like. How do we take hold of our identity in Christ? In what ways does our community help in forming who we are as Jesus-followers? What does Spiritual Formation in community look like? Where am I called to be Jesus in the small part of the world that I occupy? How is that calling an important part of my formation? For more information about speakers, pre-conference intensives, lodging and registration go to www.renovare.org. We look forward to being with you!
Margaret Campbell, Renovaré Board of Trustees Rick Carpenter, University Baptist Church Linda Christians, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church James Furr, Houston Graduate School of Theology Jim Herrington, Faithwalking Michael Homan, First Presbyterian Church of Houston David Hsu, West Houston Chinese Church Vicky Jones, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church Dian Kidd, Union Baptist Association Steven Laufer, University Baptist Church John Newton, Episcopal Diocese of Texas John Ogletree, First Metropolitan Church Juanita and Rudy Rasmus, St. John’s Downtown Jeff Smith, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Becky Towne, Houston Graduate School of Theology Marty Troyer, Houston Mennonite Church David Wu, Leadership Transformations and Access Church
a grants program for worshiping communities
The Vital Worship Grants Program at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship seeks to foster vital worship in congregations, parishes, and other worshiping communities in North America. This grants program is especially focused on projects that connect public worship to intergenerational faith formation and Christian discipleship, a theme that can unfold in many facets of worship from Bible reading to preaching to Baptism and Lordâ€™s Supper, intercessory prayer, congregational song, visual arts, and more. We encourage grant proposals developed through a collaborative process from emerging and established churches; seminaries, colleges, and schools; hospitals, nursing homes and other organizations.
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THE IMPACT OF A GATHERING TO DISCUSS
MILLENNIALS, THE CHURCH, and SPIRITUAL FORMATION By Bradley Burck
- l/ /m -’l-nee
mil • len • ni • al
Adjective - People born approximately between the years of 1980 and 2000.
It doesn’t matter if you call them Millennials, Mosaics, or Generation Y. What matters is that you know they are leaving the church in the United States at alarming numbers and many have some very interesting ideas about God, community, and Christianity. According to a Barna Group study, four generations of adults are active in the church right now (statistics below are based on population): Traditionalists (born before 1945) – 44 million strong Baby Boomers (1946 to 1964) – 76 million strong Generation X (1965 to 1977) – 46 million strong Generation Y (1978 to 2000) – 80 million strong Better understanding the latest generation can help shape the way we minister to them and grow them into the Christian leaders that will lead the church for the next 70 years. Some see today’s young adults as maddening, lazy slackers. To others they are creative, intense, results-oriented producers. No matter what one’s view, this much is clear: fewer folks born between 1984 and 2002 are involved in church. Fifty-nine percent who grew up in church have dropped
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out, while only 20 percent see church attendance as important. Thirty-three percent say it isn’t important at all. Given such statistics, restoring young adults to church is a crucial challenge facing all Christians of all religious traditions. The current dropout rate will affect everything from charitable giving to the church’s influence in society to the Spiritual Formation movement. With the first Millennial assuming Renovaré’s Board chair in mid-September, it is fitting that just prior to his election Renovaré and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW, Calvin College) co-sponsored “Spiritual Formation in Higher Education Settings – the Millennial Generation in a Multi-Cultural World.” The three-day gathering assembled educational and cultural leaders who offered input on how we can better engage a new generation with regards to Spiritual Formation and the church. The gathering was a gift from the CICW through grant funding provided by Lilly Endowment.
Maintaining Cultural Sensitivity One theme that emerged from the presentations and discussions that unfolded during the thought-provoking conference concerned the need to avoid stereotyping or judging Millennials in order to appreciate their contributions to society.
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In the opening talk, Spring Arbor University Professor Nathan Foster—a Renovaré team member—noted that multiple generations have more in common than the differences that often divide them. Calling Millennials a “mirror” of other generations and a byproduct of our culture, he said their indifference to church underscores the church’s failure to help people become living sacrifices. “We’re looking at the formation of us,” said Foster. “Why are we surprised that they’re leaving the church? Church leadership is not always well-formed, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the Millennials are drifting.” Foster continued, “How can we be helpful to Millennials? The answer is by focusing on our own formation—which is always relational. My father says if we want to help Millennials, simply be with them without having an agenda.” Barna Group Editorial consultant Roxanne Wieman, a Millennial who helped with David Kinnaman’s book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church… And Rethinking Faith, pointed out that understanding key differences in outlook can go a long way towards reaching her generation, which often characterizes itself as “spiritual but not religious.” Wieman noted that when Millennials responded to a question in a recent >
survey about what helped their faith grow, church didn’t even make the top 10. She asked the assembled group, “Why would a Millennial go to your church when the best of what you’re providing for music and teaching can be found online and a better depth of conversation and relationship can be found at the local pub?” Wieman closed her presentation by saying, “A church that is just being the church is attractive. Please make the case for church. Don’t just talk about what is broken, but what is right. You have more to offer than serving organic coffee and good preaching.” “We must also maintain sensitivity to cultural differences,” said Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier. The vice president of education at Eastern University’s Esperanza College, Conde-Frazier emphasized that the Millennials she interacts with on a daily basis are not the ones you are hearing in the statistics or the articles. She went on to explain that socio-economic backgrounds affect the way people think, feel, and react to events. She added that multi-culturalism is not an experience but a journey. As leaders working with the next generation, she challenged those in attendance to be aware of the journey, to be present for the journey, and to be in the lives of the young people they encounter. A talk on next generation leadership was led by Steve Macchia, founder of
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Leadership Transformations and director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. A veteran of 30 years in ministry who has worked with Millennials for the past decade, Macchia commented that he loved working with young adults. Yet, he acknowledged that they also challenge and stretch him. Although some negative stereotypes carry an element of truth, Macchia said critics should remember Millennials are passionate, transparent, highly autonomous, and embrace accountable leadership over hierarchical structures.
Reflecting on Ideas A good part of the gathering at Calvin took place as the larger group broke into small groups to process the talks. They first reflected on the question: “What’s stirring?” That prompted a strong reaction from Eric Magnusson, Spring Arbor University, who recalled how adults removed Millennials from services between ages 6 and 11. By the time adults wanted them back in worship, they preferred being with their peers. Church should reflect this more compassionate approach, said James Furr, Houston Graduate School of Theology, who believes that practitioners of the gospel should not “float” above culture and roundly criticize but play an integral role in making a difference. He
also encouraged others to resist labels and remember that we are all different. Another participant echoed this view, asking, “What is more fundamental to worship than being appropriately humble about who we are? The experience of becoming truly multi-cultural is the experience of becoming truly human. It is about becoming what God intended for us: fully human.” Elizabeth Conde-Frazier commented that she doesn’t want another conversation as much as she wants real-life relationships. “We have to be in a relationship like a fabric,” Elizabeth said. “So if we pull on the fabric, the fabric absorbs the pull. That’s where the conversation really happens and where transformation really takes place.” In a later discussion, Elizabeth pointed out that the more we live intergenerationally, the more transformation gets passed on, meaning more faith is transmitted from generation to generation. “The more we separate generations from one another the more a society becomes secular,” she said. That comment was echoed by another who said the inter-generational relationships missing from church are the reason Millennials find it preferable to hang out at the pub and discuss theology.
A Time of Connecting One of the most beautiful aspects of our
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gathering was just how connected people were, even if they arrived not knowing one another. The shared passion and vision for seeing the next generation fully embrace life in the Kingdom unified the group. Hard questions were asked and there was humility in learning from one another and sharing with one another. We were challenged to try and look through different lenses and work to understand what the spiritual life looked like from a different generation’s point of view or a different cultural perspective. The shared approach to humble learning led to deeper insights. One of the great gifts from the CICW was the leadership of John Witvliet in our times of worship. The group explored various songs and hymns from around the world and John graciously guided the gathering through the background stories for many of them.
Restoring Millennials to Church One other idea that emerged at the gathering was that while the church needs to sharpen its appeal to young adults, it does not mean it should “cater” to them at the exclusion of everything else. After all, pointed out one participant, Jesus didn’t chase after the rich young ruler when he walked away. While leading the morning prayer time, Keith Matthews, with Azusa Pacific University, had the group consider
a quote from Ruth Haley Barton: “We set our young leaders up for a fall if we encourage them to envision what they can do before they consider the kind of person they should be.” Ultimately, the hope of the group was that we might help the next generation consider who they want to be before we send them off to “do.” As the gathering came to a close, Rachel Quan addressed the group and thanked them for coming and being a part of the conversation. “On behalf of Renovaré and Calvin College, I want to thank you for coming and helping us think about the future and how to pass on what we’ve learned from those who have come before us. What Richard Foster and so many others who have
spurred the Spiritual Formation movement have given us is something we are committed to see transferred to the next generation and those who come after them. The world is going to change when you have ‘formed’ people in the structures of society to reflect more of the goodness and graciousness of God,” she said. “This will have an impact on the marketplace, government, arts, and academia. And the only way we can ensure the transfer is taking place is if we are having humble, deliberate discussions about > Bradley Burck what is going on around us.”
References: David Kinnaman’s book You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church… And Rethinking Faith Special thanks to MaryKate Morse from George Fox University for her detailed notes. Special thanks to Kristen Verhulst, John Witvliet and the staff and faculty of Calvin College for their generosity and hospitality.
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> A Spiritual Formation Primer is perfect for anyone who wants to dig deeper into Life With God. It is also an excellent resource for personal and/or small group study as well as a “must have” for any ministerial leadership team. Get yours today at www.Renovare.org.
Written by Renovaré Ministry Team and Board member Richella Parham, A Spiritual Formation Primer is a valuable resource that answers the question being asked by many today: “What is Spiritual Formation?” Richella clearly lays out the basics of Christian spiritual formation and does so in a cheerful and winsome way. This highly approachable volume inspires its reader that transformation into the image of Jesus Christ is available, possible, and awaiting every believer who seeks it. Some of the topics included in this book are: • Defining Spiritual Formation • • The centrality of Christ • • God’s grace • • Life in the Kingdom of God • 73 : EXPRESSIONS • The process of change
The spiritual disciplines The communion of saints The fellowship of believers Resources for renewal
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