Looking Back: Thoughts on a Protestant Order

Yesterday was full and good day of ministry. I began by enjoying coffee with a worship pastor friend with whom I meet every other Thursday to share our lives with one another. Then, I helped lead a day retreat in Orange, CA for a number of Christian leaders from the area. I never cease to be amazed at the creative compassion of God in how He expresses Himself to His beloved sons and daughters. Then, I ended the day speaking to the InterVarsity chapter at University of California at Irvine. I came home tired and grateful.

Tomorrow, I’ll lead another one of our “An Unhurried Day with Jesus” events at Creekside Christian Fellowship in Irvine, CA. Then, I’ll preach at the three Sunday services at the Ventura (CA) Vineyard on the theme of “Prayer: A Relationship with God”. I’d be grateful for your prayers.

I so long to be part of a wider movement of Christ followers who share a common life of intimacy with God, love for one another and shared engagement in Christ’s work in His world. Below is a link to a post from January on what such a movement might look like.

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Looking Back: Cultivating Holy Rhythms of Life

I continue today to recover from a lovely cold/flu that’s parked in my chest. Hurray for antibiotics and cough syrup with codeine. So I’ll make this one short.

E. Glenn Hinson, in an article from Weavings (May/June 2002), talked about how we might more deeply practice the presence of God in our lives through rhythms of daily and occasional disengagements from our activities to simply be in the presence of God.

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An Upside to Monotony?

I read the following in Dennis Okholm’s Monk Habits for Everyday People:

“[quoting Michael Casey] The purpose of the relentless sameness of the monastic round is to create a climate in which hidden aspects of the personality become manifest. External monotony is an invitation to inner change, whereas novelty and constant variety short-circuit the process of going deeper.’

We will discover our true selves as we patiently simmer in communities and relationships to which God has called us. And we will find God there as well, because if we cannot find God where we are, we will not find him elsewhere. Except for those extreme or abusive cases, if you haven’t seen God in your marriage, in your present employment, in your neighborhood, or in your church fellowship, then chances are you won’t see God in your next marriage, job, neighborhood, or church.” (p. 96-97.)

Reflection questions:

  • What is your hunger level for variety? In what ways is this a reflection of God’s great creativity and “new every morning”-ness? In what ways might it be a way of escaping the rhythms, rituals and habits that might be a place of maturing for you?
  • To what degree are you tempted to leave a place you’ve been for a while? How much “the grass is greener over there” is moving you?
  • In what ways might God be inviting you to stay put rather than start over?

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Looking Back: Family Rhythms

It’s been a good week of retreat. Yesterday afternoon and evening, we reflected together on Psalm 139 then heard one another’s stories of how we have known ourselves beloved by God. It was amazing to hear some of the unique ways God has shown his love over our lifetimes. What a gift to be part of a spiritual family like this!

Today, I’m reposting a link from May 2009 when I shared an insightful word from David Robinson’s Family Closter about rhythms of family spirituality. Enjoy!

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Thoughts on a Protestant Order

The Leadership Institute staff community has long functioned as a kind of Protestant Christian order, though we have not formalized that as of yet. (I use “Protestant” to distinguish from an Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic order). Elton Trueblood had a remarkable little essay on the theme, “The Emerging Order” (and being written in the 1950s, he wasn’t talking about anything related to the contemporary Emergent movement). Listen to this:

“The idea that is developing so powerfully is the idea of an order. An order is a society of persons, united by some common rule of obligation. The reformation that is sought is that by which the church as we know it becomes an order in this sense.” (Elton Trueblood. “The Emerging Order.” The Yoke of Christ and Other Sermons. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958, p. 120.)

An order is a community of men and women who are connected on the basis of a common rhythm of life and ministry. This is how I would prefer to state “common rule of obligation” (a phrase which feels more rigid and less life-giving to me). Becoming an order or being part of an order is not about making people as comfortable as possible as they come to us. We don’t invite them to join on the basis of self-interest, then grow in selfless discipleship to Jesus. At least that wasn’t His approach.

“What is needed, by contrast, is a movement of great power which cuts across all denominational lines, so that those who are working for the recovery of the lost provinces in the Methodist Church will feel a deep sense of unity with those who are doing the same in the Presbyterian Church, though this horizontal loyalty never interferes with the denominational loyalty. This is exactly what is coming to pass, and it presents no conflict of loyalty whatever. Because an order is radically different from a denomination, loyalty to both at the same time involves no difficulties. We must be wary of new religious movements which tend to draw people away from their local churches. What we seek, instead, is a movement which, by the inculcation of a new mood and the encouragement of a new discipline, can make ordinary Christians more effective members where they already belong and where their contributions are needed.” (Trueblood, p. 121.)

An order does not have to live within a single denominational or organizational boundary. In fact, it is probably better if it doesn’t. An order is a relational reality that seeks to serve the various communities and traditions from which participants come. It doesn’t exist for its own benefit, but for the benefit of others. Whatever order emerges from the extended community of The Leadership Institute will seek to serve the churches, institutions and ministries from which members come. It would not seek to replace or supplant them, but serve and enrich them. That’s at least what I long for.

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Rule of Life and Martin Luther King

One of my presentations at The Journey retreat is on the theme of “Rhythm of Life.” “Rule of life” is more common phrase, but I find this word is less inviting to this recovering perfectionist.

In her book, Soul Feast, Marjorie Thompson says, “A rule of life is a pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness. When we speak of patterns in our life, we mean attitudes, behaviors, or elements that are routine, repeated, regular. Indeed, the Latin tern for ‘rule’ is regula, from which our words regular and regulate derive. A rule of life is not meant to be restrictive, although it certainly asks for genuine commitment. It is meant to help us establish a rhythm of daily living, a basic order within which new freedoms can grow. A rule of life, like a trellis, curbs our tendency to wander and supports our frail efforts to grow spiritually (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005, p. 146).”

She points out (p. 148) that Martin Luther King, Jr. developed a rule to guide the nonviolent protests of the civil rights movement:

  • Meditate daily on the teachings and life of Jesus.
  • Remember always that the nonviolent movement in Birmingham seeks justice and reconciliation, not victory.
  • Walk and talk in the manner of love, for God is love.
  • Pray daily to be used by God in order that all might be free.
  • Observe with both friend and foe the ordinary rules of courtesy.
  • Seek to perform regular service for others and the world.
  • Refrain from violence of fist, tongue, or heart.
  • Strive to be in good spiritual and bodily health.
  • Follow the directions of the movement and the captain of a demonstration.

Perhaps on this day when we remember Martin Luther King’s legacy, we might remember not just the outward good his life inspired, but the way of life that inspired it.

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Looking Back: Resource for a Rhythm of Prayer

Happy Christmas Saturday. I hope that your celebration yesterday was both joyful and triumphant! Our family had a simple but fun day together.

Perhaps in this season as we also prepare for a new year, you’ll be thinking about what your own rhythm of prayer will look like in coming weeks or months. I’ve linked a post from June where I talk a little about some resources that could help.

CLICK for “Resource for a Rhythm of Prayer