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Interviewing Bilal - Part I

26 May, 2003 4:56 PM

As part of my multi-faith dialogue subject for college I've had the amazing privilege a few weeks back to interview a great guy by the name of Bilal about his faith. Bilal is a 25 years old and lives in Melbourne. He works as a plumber and was recently married. Both Bilal and his wife are committed attendees at their local Mosque and are serious about grappling with their faith. The time that we spent together were most interesting. He went to great lengths to assure me that he 'was not an expert' in Islam and just a 'simple and uneducated man' but what I saw in his life was a rich and challenging spirituality I am incredibly grateful for the glimpse that Bilal gave me of his faith as it greatly informed my understanding of Islam.

Bilal has been really generous with his time with me and has also been gracious enough to let me post some excerpts of our interview here. This is just one question of many that we talked about. I'm happy to post more if there is interest. (Although we had a great discussion I've presented his answer as an uninterrupted monologue so as to give a flow to his thoughts.

How does your faith impact your daily life?
There are lots of way I see my faith having an impact on my life. Some of them are very practical. Actually it is the practicalness to every day activity that makes me love Islam. Sometimes when I talk to Christian friends they can't believe how much I have to DO in my religion, but I can't believe how little their faith seems to impact their every day life.

Prayer - The main actual impact is through the prayers that we do. I need to arrange my day carefully so that I'm able to pray five times. I am lucky in that I work for myself and determine my own hours, however it can get a little tricky at times. I have friends who have had problems in negotiating with their employers over this issue. On the positive side I find the regular prayer times to be really worth the effort as they force me to think of God during my day and he becomes a part of my workplace, home life and social settings and not just a one off thing in my week. Every time I pray I recommit my covenant with God and seek his guidance. I am constantly working out my faith. I find that even though we recite largely the same prayers every day that they give me a great framework to explore who I am and what my place in the world is.

Diet — Another thing we need to be aware of is what food and drink we have. The main things we are not allowed to eat pork and we are not allowed to drink alcohol. At times this can also be difficult, we have had a few interesting moments when we've eaten with non Muslim friends, but generally this again helps us to focus on God in the everyday of life. I also feel that somehow it represents the purity that we strive for as we relate to God.

Fridays — I structure my working week so that I do not work on Fridays. This is the day that I spend with friends and family at our local Mosque. When we get together we pray and spend time with each other. Often on this day we'll eat together — it has a real community building focus to it. I am able to do this due to my work situation, it is too difficult for others so there are also other times we come together as a community in the evenings and even on the weekends.

Ramadan — Fasting during month of Ramadan is obviously a fairly major focus of the Islamic year for us. In this month we do not eat during the. It sounds like a big sacrifice, and at times it is, but I always look forward to this month because it means a lot to us.

I was really challenged by the commitment and effort that went into Bilal's faith. The logistics of prayer, diet, fasting and community involvement seemed overwhelming to me yet the results of these things were significant to his life and faith. I could not help but wonder if we are missing something as Christians by often allowing faith to become one of the many compartments of life, often explored only for a few hours a week at certain times and places. Bilal has a rhythm to his life which does take real commitment but also is constantly helping him to see and connect with God in the everyday of life.

Conversations with God

26 May, 2003 9:43 AM

I was just going through some old files and stumbled upon this. I was speaking at a youth conference in 2001 and in the lead up was praying about what to speak about. Often when I pray I write (or type) my prayers down and then also write what I think God might be saying in response. I don't presume to say that 'this is what God told me' - but I'll post it and allow it to be what it may be for who it may be.

In preparation for State Youth Conference - 4 May 2001

What do you want for these young people Jesus? What word, what message, what thrust? If you could pick them up and put them wherever you desired or make them into the type of people you'd want, who and where would they be?

I already have done what you talk about. These people are already who I want them to be! I put them together in intricate detail to be as they are and not only that, they are already where I want them to be. They are in the schools, the families, the universities and the workplaces that I planned for them to be. They are in the relationships I want them to be in. I wouldn't transport them to another place or time, I want them here and now for a purpose. I desire for them to find me in the places they are — to thirst after me there — to interact with me there, to know me there and to join in the things that I am already doing there! I'm at work in their schools, their work places, their universities, their families and their friendship groups. Tell them to join me in that work. Challenge them to spot me — to know my heart for those places and people and to participate in the coming of my kingdom! Assure them that I created them as they are, in this era, in this place as an essential part of my plan.

Seek me and you will find me. Know that I am God, that I made you and I have plans for you. Join me in these plans, engage with me and together we will impact the places that you find yourselves, in ways you'd never have dreamed of. You are the ones for the job, you are in the place to do it and now is the time to get into it. I am with you — I love you — be with me.

Fired up

24 May, 2003 11:44 AM

Rowland Croucher looks at being 'On Fire' as Pentecost approaches.

"When I was a staffworker with students and graduates of our Australian universities, I discovered that about 50% of 'fired-up' Christian students lost that fire within ten years. Why?"

God's timing...

22 May, 2003 5:19 PM

Sometimes God chooses the most inopportune moments to confront you with where you need to grow.

Last Sunday I was in the middle of preaching. I was standing up in front of 200 or so people and was getting really worked up about Matthew 10. I was talking about how Jesus calls us to 'give up our lives', to 'take up our cross' and to 'travel light'. The call is a radical one, its life changing, you can't even attempt to do it without making significant sacrifice or lifestyle alternations from the 'patterns of this world'. I was getting pretty passionate about this.

I was particularly focusing upon how our culture often encourages us to accumulate and to consume and yet how this in these passages seems almost diametrically opposed to the call of Jesus.

I was getting worked up and I glanced down to my Palm Pilot where my notes were and I realised that whilst I strongly believed what I was saying I also represented what I was calling people to move away from. I was...no...I am up there with the best of consumers and accumulators. I drove to that church in my one year old car, had prepared the sermon on my cool little laptop and would go home after to my fully equipped house.

I stopped mid sentence as the reality of it hit me. I'm not sure what the congregation thought of me but after a few seconds I had to look up and admit to them that whilst I was passionate about what I was saying that I really wondered if I had any idea of what Jesus call really meant in practice.

On one level I can honestly say that I genuinely would give anything to respond to the call of Jesus...but also at exactly the same time I realise I have not really even begun to grapple with it.

Are we Missing Something?

21 May, 2003 9:49 PM

Jordon Cooper observes some differences between Church going and non Church going bloggers posts. He wonders if perhaps we (as churchy bloggers) get a little obsessed and lack something in our posts. I commented there

I agree and disagree.

I agree that non church goer's blogs can be more a celebration of life than many Christian bloggers that I read. This is why I've been spending more time surfing them of late. There are some amazing blogs out there and I think we (as Churchies) can lead too sheltered a life by just linking to and surfing to each others blogs)

I don't completely agree with your post though on a personal level because I choose not to post about some issues on my blog. This includes potential posts on the parties, the personal conversations, relationships etc that I have. Its not that I don't 'have a life' but rather because

1. I need to keep some distance between personal life and public life.

2. I need to protect my family a little because of their personal situations (ie due to their commitments at work and to other groups I'm not at liberty to post on some issues)

3. The reason I started my blog was because I was exploring what it meant to start a new form of church and I felt incredibly isolated, rather scared and alone and very unsure as to how to explore my dream. The blog was one of the ways I hoped to grow in my understanding of church, ministry, my role etc. It was my hope that through it I'd be able to grow, connect with others on the same journey and perhaps even contribute to what others are doing. I guess this is reflected in what I do and don't post about. As a result many of my posts (I estimate just over half) focus upon church, faith or related topics.

I wonder if you're generalising a little about it - could the same thing be said for bloggers who focus their blogging on politics, or science, or computers? ie they seem to only to be able to think about those issues and 'seem' devoid of other relationships or interests.

What do others observe and think on the topic?

Ignition is igniting!

20 May, 2003 4:22 PM

Just had yet another email from someone using the Ignition course. I met with the other Forge guys today and we are getting really excited by the feedback we're getting about it. One guy here in Australia ran the course in a local cafe and just by having it there has seen the cafe owner and his wife virtually come to faith. He's so happy with it that he's about to start using it with over 100 young people in his church.

There are dozens of groups running here in my state at the moment. We're getting reports of groups being sighted running it in local cafes through our city that we don't even know of. A couple of very large Melbourne churches have just started groups too.

Every day I'm getting queries about the online version. We've heard there are groups running in New Zealand (multiple), Illinois(US), Lancashire (UK) and Alberta (Canada). Heaps of people have been downloading the free trial too.

Its an exciting feeling to know that there are so many people interested in exploring mission - but its also a little daunting!

I'm interested to hear the feedback of any of you who've started a group?

Why I don't go to church

19 May, 2003 10:48 AM

I was talking to a friend last week about Rachel's series of posts on Why I don't go to Church where she asks people who don't attend church anymore a series of questions. My friend, who doesn't go any more, asked if they could answer them. Here is their response....its long (25 questions in all) but very interesting.

1. What is your definition of church?

In a general sense the Church is made up of all those who follow Christ — both those who choose to gather together in a formal way and those who do not. The church is not buildings or clergy, it is people who love and are moving towards Jesus.

2. What do you feel is the purpose or aim of church? What should it be?

I may be cynical but in my experience of churches there is a vast difference between what I feel the purpose is and what it should be. Unfortunately I get the feeling that the church is losing its way. This is why I have chosen to remove myself from most elements of it.

To answer the question — I believe the purposes of the church should be numerous.

It should be in the business of creating spaces for people to connect with Jesus in a dynamic way. The church is not responsible for if people do connect or not, that is the individuals responsibility, but the church should be exploring relevant ways to help people on their journey. It should be a place that resources, supports and inspires people in their love and relationship for God.

The church should be in the business of growing community among its believers. Unfortunately this is an area where things often break down. If it wasn't for the fact that we are all human it would work brilliantly!

The church should be in the business of impacting the world we live in. Call it mission, service or justice — I don't care — but do it! Jesus constantly called his followers to impact their world — to preach, to heal the sick, to cast out demons and to accept the sinner and ostracised.

As I said — I think the church has become distracted from its core call in all these areas.

3. What issues do you think the church is failing to deal with adequately?

It is failing to grapple effectively with its purposes. I think it often names them. Every church I've ever been to has had a wonderful mission statement — but I'm yet to see one that is living it out — or even really attempting to.

I think many churches are paralysed by fear. They are afraid of change, afraid of the world around them (that they are called to impact), they are afraid of 'sinners' and they are afraid to commit to real community.

One of the big failures that I see is that they are called toinclusivity yet time and time again are exclusive. It staggers me that we follow a man who entered into community with the most 'repulsive' people in his culture, yet most churches are unwilling to even consider such an act.

4. How do you see the church operating in the future?

inclusivity yet time and time again are exclusive. It staggers me that we follow a man who entered into community with the most 'repulsive' people in his culture, yet most churches are unwilling to even consider such an act.

4. How do you see the church operating in the future?

I wonder if the church will exist there. If it doesn't make some fundamental changes it will end up being an extreme minority.

5. If you were to change one thing about church, what would it be?

I would infuse it with love. What's love got to do, got to do with it? Love casts our fear. Love is at the core of everything Jesus talked about. Love, love changes everything. Hands and faces, earth and sky. Love, love changes everything. How you live and how you die

6. What do you believe to be the necessary actions/behavior of a Christian?

A Christian is a person who is in relationship with and moving towards Jesus. They are not someone who has it all worked out and they have not 'arrived'. They 'sin' but they continue to seek God and allow her transformation and healing in their lives. They seek to live lives of love for God, others and self.

7. Why are you a non-church-goer?

Complicated question. There are many reasons, let me try to sum up some of them (watch out, this could be messy!)

After years of church going I became frustrated by the way it has become institutionalised. It frustrates me that it has become so rigid and closed to change and fluidity. Jesus gives a radical call to follow him, the majority of churches have become too comfortable, they have become like clubs and they have lost the passion. Like you (ed: Darren) said last week on your site, read Matthew 10 and compare the call of Jesus to his disciples with the way your church operates. Read Romans 12 and tell me where there is a church in the West grappling with that stuff! We've lost the plot — I have become disillusioned with being virtually the only person in a community of faith that wants it to be more than a nice and safe place to come and feel all warm and fuzzy with my middle class privileged life. Attending church sucked life from me — I figured that it was not healthy for me to continue to go.

8. What role did those who were in the church have on your decision to leave?

I wasn't asked to leave, although I've heard since that some people are happy that I did. I attempted to discuss my frustrations with others in the community including leadership. They just asked me to 'tone it down'.

9. What or who finally 'pushed' you?

Two reasons.

The church I was a part of began to talk more and more about money. It was subtle, but it became more and more obsessed with raising money for its new building. The current building wasn't being utilised, we were not growing, and it was proposed that the reason was we needed a new flash looking building. A campaign started to raise the millions needed to make it so that our community would flock onto our turf to be saved. Related to this was the topic of money in sermons. Our pastor read the book called 'You need more Money!' written by a prominent Australian pastor. Some of these ideas of prosperity began to gradually creep into his sermons. I cannot remember Jesus telling his disciples to accumulate resources, buy property and get all the latest and greatest technology in order to further the kingdom. It all made me feel physically sick.

The church rejected one of my friends who was brave enough to tell a pastor that he was struggling with homosexuality. He was told to either leave and not associate with anyone in the church or to repent and change. There was no offer of counselling, there was no understanding that he needed time to talk through what he was going through, there was no acknowledgement of God's love for him — he either had to change instantly or leave. I felt physically sick.

10. What did you find most hurtful?

I watched my church slowly become obsessed with money. I also watched my friend reject God.

11. What feelings accompanied your decision to leave?

I left feeling broken and emotionally burnt out. I still feel drained years later.

12. Do you think you connect with God more, less or the same amount now as you did when you attended church?

I go through stages of closeness to God, but this is no different to when I attended church. Overall I feel more connected to Jesus now.

13. Do you still regularly meet together with other christians/groups/organisations? If so, please describe.

Not formally. I regularly connect with Christian friends for meals, to see movies, to pray and to talk about faith issues. But it is not formal. I would call it church though.

14. What other groups, organisations do you now go to to meet the needs that church did....if any.

I am very involved in community groups. I volunteer considerable time to local groups that have a social justice outlook on life. I will always serve my community — not just because I'm a community minded person, but out of my faith. I also am involved in a book club which is a place of community building and where we often talk about issues of faith. (although I'm only one of two Christians in the group)


15. How has this changed your relationship with non-christians?

I have so many more relationships with non-christians (I hate that term). I now have more time to connect with them as I'm not totally consumed with church activities. I also feel more free to talk about faith without them worrying about me trying to drag them to church to be saved. Since leaving the church I have had three non Christian friends become Christians. Two have joined churches, one meets regularly with me and another friend to pray and learn.

16. What do you miss about church now?

I cannot honestly think of anything. I feel so much more free now.

17. What is it about church that doesn't connect with where you're at?

I've said it all I think. Oh...I hate singing, I always found it to be an experience that stressed me out and made it difficult for me to connect with God. Why can't church have 'bush walking worship'?

18. Would you go back? Why or why not? Would anything make you go back to church?

I've considered it. I actually feel that one day I may go back, not because of what I'll get out of it but for what I can offer. Not that I feel I have anything much to offer, but I see some little new churches starting in my city that I'd like to support. It scares me though.

19. Which would you prefer - people inviting you to attend church, or leaving you alone in your decision not to?

My old church friends do not talk to me any more because I associate with unacceptable types. So I never get such an invitation. It doesn't bother me.

20. What are the most important/effective ways for you to sustain your christianity as a non-church-goer?

Prayer, service to others, eating with others. I celebrate life in the small things and see God in them every day.

21. What is the vision God has given you for your life?

In the normal things that I do, every day, I have the ability to be a light, to help others connect with the life that God offers. I always try to find what God is already doing in the world around me and to join him in it.

22. What do you say when people ask you "What church do you go to?"

'I don't go to A church'.

23. What question don't you like other Christians asking you?

Is your belly button an inney or an outy? Mine is a major outy...they always want to see it.

24. What question do you wish other Christians would ask you?

Nothing springs to mind. I think I've said enough!

25. Is there anything else that you'd like to mention?

No — thanks for the questions.

Fearful Flash

15 May, 2003 11:18 AM

What do you think of the Flash introduction to Josh McDowell's latest campaign?

Leighton feels ill observing the way it plays on parental fears and questions the basic premise of Josh's campaign.

For me it triggered some of the the arguements put forward in Bowling for Columbine which had the idea of 'Fear leading to Consumerism' as a central them. Interesting that its not just secular media and goverments that are using the strategy.

Whole life 'Mudcake Spirituality'

14 May, 2003 11:35 AM

How does faith become a whole life thing?

This Sunday morning I'm guest speaking at Wattle Park Chapel. The topic I'm working on is to challenge people take the step away from 'Sunday faith' and towards 'whole life faith'. I'm going to talk about Mudcake Spirituality and explore the idea that Jesus calls us to this type of passion not only for those special times of worship where we gather together 'at church' but in the day to day of life.

Two passages have been ringing in my ears the last two weeks. Firstly Matthew 10 and secondly Romans 12. In the first Jesus calls his disciple to a new radical life of following and serving him. Its a life that calls for sacrifice, interaction with their world, significant investment in others, travelling light, danger, persecution and giving up virtually everything. Of course coupled with the sacrifice and hardship is the reality of a God who knows the numbers of hairs on your head who will provide everything you need on the journey and who will speak in your defence in times of trial. Jesus calls his followers to a radical life that impacts every aspect of life.

In the second passage (Rom 12) we read a similar call to 'offer your bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice'. What a powerful call. The rest of the chapter (and those that follow) flesh this call out. Such a life is one of humility, where gifts are exercised, where love and serving others is grappled with, where others are honoured and where prayer and hospitality are central to life.

Sometimes I look at my life and I wonder if it resembles Jesus call at all. In a world of compartmentalisation its so easy to slip in and out of 'spiritual life'. In a world where consumerism promises fulfilment and identity its so easy to tie oneself down by the weight of what we accumulate. In a world where 'I' is central it is so easy to ignore the call to community and serving the other. In a world Reality TV, 24 hour sport and lifestyle programs its so easy end up living vicariously through others, becoming numb to ones own life and loosing the child like spark that we're called to enter into life with.

I feel like I'm constantly shaking myself out of my apathetic state to remind myself of his call. How do you go about making faith a 24/7 thing?

Update: Here is a series I've written about Holistic Spirituality which presents a framework (or model) for thinking it through. Holistic Spirituality - Part 1

RE: Children

13 May, 2003 8:36 AM

Today is my first taste of RE (Religious Education) in a local primary school with children. I was asked to be a part of a team (of 2) to go into the local primary school once a week to do a half hour class of Protestant Christian RE. The school also runs a Catholic, Muslim and a Jewish RE class for other children.

Our class will have about 16 children ranging in age from 5 through to 11 so it will take a little bit of effort to be relevant to the full age spectrum.

We have decided to develop our own material and look at the topic of 'What is God like?' Over the next term of 7 weeks we're going to get the kids to make their own TV program on the subject. Each week they'll do an activity and we'll video it, (ie act out a bible story, paint a mural etc). We'll also get them to interview each other on the topic and in the last week will have it all edited into a 'TV show' where they'll see themselves telling themselves 'What God is like'.

Should be fun. Its a great exercise to have to think through some basic elements of faith at a level that a child would understand. I'm looking forward to this afternoon!

If anyone has any ideas or thoughts on doing RE with primary aged children (including any fun but meaningful activities) just let me know.

Manipulove continued

12 May, 2003 10:22 AM

Rachel just emailed me an article titledFirst bombs to pulverize army, now sermons to 'save Iraqi souls' which adds to the conversation that Richard is having over at The Connexion. It begins:

Baghdad -- First came the bombs, pulverizing the Iraqi military. Now come the Bible brigades, intent on saving Iraqi souls. At least that's how it looks to many Muslims, who say their worst fears of a latter-day Crusade are being realised by the plans of the Rev Franklin Graham - son of the Rev Billy Graham, confidante of President Bush and unabashed critic of Islam - to send relief workers into Iraq... More here

Manipulove

12 May, 2003 9:02 AM

The Connexion comments upon a group of conservative Evangelicals who've come out saying we should heal 'rifts' with Muslims that threaten missionary work. While all in favour of reconciliation Richard makes an excellent point about the motivation behind it:

I may be nit-picking, but let's not condemn assaults on Islam because of the effects it might have on evangelism, or the potential threat it poses to lives and livelihoods. Let's condemn the rubbishing of Islam because it's wrong in itself and contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I couldn't agree more. We shouldn't love others because it might open a door for them to become one of 'us'. We should love them because they are made in the image of God, because God loves them and because it is a call at the heart of the message of the one we follow in Jesus. Any other reason I feel is somewhat manipulative.

Ritual, Rhythm and other lessons from other Faiths.

9 May, 2003 11:32 AM

Most of you will know by now that I'm doing a subject at bible college at the moment on Multi faith Dialogue. (hence my posting on Lesson from a Buddhist Nun, Jihad, Muslim Blogisphere and Interfaith Dialogue...to name a few recent 'multi faith' posts.

This morning I've been reflecting upon the experiences that I've had in visiting a Mosque, Buddhist temple, Synagogue and Hari Krishna temple and having one on one conversation with a Melbourne Muslim man. Its been an amazing experience, one in which I feel like I've had my eyes opened incredibly.

One of the main differences I've noticed between Christianity and these other faiths is the level that we connect faith to the every day of life. (forgive me for the gross generalisations I'm about to make!)

After each of the above inter faith experiences I've come home challenged by the way that there are inbuilt rituals built into the every day activities for those practicing these religions. For Bilal (a Muslim man I interviewed) it revolved around the 5 daily prayers, the dietary regulations and the visits to the Mosque. For the Jewish student rabbi we met yesterday it was the three daily prayer times, the cap he wears, the way he prepares food and the different aspects of his clothing, for the Hari Krishna we met it was the food that he ate and the various prayer times throughout his day and for the Buddhist Nun it again was her food preparation, regular meditation times and dress.

In each case there were tangible, rituals or symbols throughout every day that meant that their spirituality was constantly being explored, stretched, developed and exercised. In each case a rhythm of life was being lived out that allowed regular connection with God. At times the rituals were incredibly sacrificial and showed extreme commitment but in every case the person sharing told of how their ritual brought incredible richness to their faith.

Before I go on I need to say that in some (although definitely not all) of the above cases we were talking to leaders and people who perhaps took their faith to the extreme where as some of the people they worked with did not - but none the less I was still impressed and challenged by their commitment.

I have been a member of three churches in my life time and a minister/pastor in each of them. Yet to be honest I've never seen faith related to every day life to the extent that I did in these other religions in any of my churches. That's not to say that I haven't seen Christians living out their faith in the everyday, rather I have not seen a church give their members practical ways to encourage them to find Jesus in the nitty gritty of life. Its often talked about as being the ideal, but practical tools, rituals and methods are rarely suggested.

As protestants has our fear of ritual actually gone too far and been part of the reason that so many of those that attend our churches find it so hard to live out what they hear and do on Sunday in the rest of their lives? Where are the tools that help us explore our connection with Jesus from Monday through to Saturday? Why have we watered down faith and thrown out so much of our rich heritage of ritual such as the practices of those such as the early monastic tradition who sought to create a rhythm of live connects faith to every day experience through methods like Comments (1)

Examen Explained

7 May, 2003 9:37 AM

As I mentioned yesterday, last night at Living Room we spent some time looking at an ancient form of prayer called Examen of Consciousness (no not X-MEN prayer...ExAmen). A few people have already emailed asking for information so I thought I'd outline the process here. I've found it amazingly helpful for me in my personal prayer life as well as using it with groups of people.

Examen was developed by St. Ignatius Loyola whowas a practical kind of person which is reflected in this daily method of prayer he recommended to his brothers. They prayed it numerous times per day as part of their daily rhythm of life.

It is is a prayer where we try to find the movement of the Spirit in our daily lives as we review our day. There are five simple steps to the Examen, which should take about 15 minutes to complete. Many people make the Examen once around lunchtime and again before going to bed. This prayer can be made anywhere�on the beach, in a car, at home, in the library.

The following is just one interpretation (of many) of these five steps to discerning the movement of Gods Spirit in your day.

Before you start: Try to be in a place where you are least likely to be disturbed, and where there is the least amount of external noise.Perhaps you light a candle or change the lighting when you pray to symbolise the start of this activity. Then sit comfortably and still yourself. Relax, be aware of your breathing, your body and how you are feeling.

1. Recall you are in the presence of God

We are always in God's presence, but in prayer we place ourselves in God's presence in an especially attentive way. God knows intimately. He loves you in the deepest way possible and desires for an intimate connection with you. In John 15 Jesus says 'abide in me and I will abide in you' — his invitation is to make our HOME in him. As you still yourself be aware that God is present with you, in creation of your surrounds, your body, in those around you. Remind yourself of his presence with you and desire to BE with you. Be still and know that you are with God.

2. Look at your day with gratitude

After a few moments, begin to give thanks to God for the gifts of today. Special pleasures will spring to mind: a good night's sleep, the smell of the morning coffee, the laugh of a child, a good meal or lesson learnt. As you move in gratitude through the details of your day give thanks to God for his presence in the big and the small things of your life.

3. Ask help from the Holy Spirit

Before the next step of reviewing your day, ask that God's Spirit might help you to look at your actions and attitudes. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to understand the motivation of your heart, to see the gifts of God and how you've responded to them. Ask that you'd learn and be shaped as your reflect. Remember, this is not a time to dwell on your shortcomings rather, it is a gentle look with the Lord at how you have responded to God's gifts. It is an opportunity for growth of self and relationship with God.

4. Review your day

This is the longest of the steps. Here you review your entire day, watching it like a movie that replays in your mind. Be sure to notice the details, the context of what happened and how you acted. As you look through the day, notice especially your motives and feelings. This is not psychoanalysis, rather it is a time for you to discern your daily motives, actions and reactions. Don't try to fix everything in this stage, just examine how conscious you have been of God's presence and actions in your life.

As you review you may wish to ask yourself some of the following questions.

When did I fail today? (why?)

When did I give love today?

Where did I receive love today?

What Habits and life patterns do I notice in my day?

In what ways did I notice God in my day?

When did I feel most alive? Most drained of life?

When did I have the greatest sense of belonging? Least sense of belonging?

When was I most free? Least free?

When was I most creative? Least creative?

When did I feel most fully myself? Least myself?

When did I feel most whole? Most fragmented?

As you review your day allow your thoughts to wander through the situations you've been in and allow God to speak, challenge, encourage and teach you.

5. Reconcile and resolve

The final step is our heart-to-heart talk with Jesus.

Here you talk with Jesus about your day. You share your thoughts on your actions, attitudes, feelings and interactions. Perhaps in this time you may feel led to seek forgiveness, ask for direction, share a concern, express gratitude etc. There may be an area you've felt challenged on or some action you feel you need to take out of this time. Resolve with Jesus to move forward in action where appropriate.

You might like to finish your time with the Lords Prayer.

Compiled by Darren Rowse 2002

As I said earlier, this is just my interpretation on the steps having drawn upon a number of online sources and put them all together. Once you've done Examen a few times you will find your own rhythm and method. You might like to add some music, candles or images to help you pray.

I was amazed by some of the conversation we had last night after doing this exercise as a group. I think we all enjoyed just spending some quiet time, reflecting on the small things of life. I was personally challenged to remember that God is even in the 'normal' and 'mundane' and to realise just how 'rich' my life is although I so often take it for granted.

I'm interested to hear how others go with Examen

For another 'ancient prayer' method check out my entry on Lectio Divina

Examen of Consciousness

6 May, 2003 9:11 AM

Looking forward to Living Room tonight - we're going to take a look at St. Ignatius Loyola's Examen of Consciousness method of prayer. Its a way of seeing God and connecting with him in the everyday of life that I've found really helpful over the years. Will post more later...

Has anyone else used it in their communities?

The New Age of Me Me Me!

4 May, 2003 2:01 PM

Interesting article in the Age's Sunday magazine today on the New Age. (sorry no link to article) In particular it focuses on the 'self-obsession' of it all. One person interviewed said:

"I've spent hours and weekend doing courses on kinesiology and working on positive affirmations, but I feel like I still need to work on myself a lot more."

The article examines the growing numbers of people who are willing to pay increasingly large sums of money to 'find themselves'. One of Australia's fastest growing festivals is the 'Mind Body Spirit' festival which tours nationally, the Psychic association estimate that they did over 1,000,000 readings last year and people are paying big bucks to get in on the action.

I reacted in two ways to the article. Firstly I'm amazed and encouraged by the spiritual openness of people today. The article confirms a lot of what I've been noticing in conversations with people I've met locally, people are more than happy to talk about spirituality and explore what it all means. There is a huge opportunity for us as followers of Jesus to be a part of this growing conversation.

Secondly at times in the article I felt like I was reading something about Christianity. This week I was in a local Christian bookstore and was amazed by the vast numbers of 'Christian Self Help' type books on the shelves. So much of what was available for purchase was about personal spirituality, improving oneself and reaching our potential. Of course in a dark back corner of the shop I found a small section of books about mission and making an impact upon our world, but the predominate focus was SELF. Of course, like with the New Age, people are obviously spending big bucks on Christian Self Improvement too!

Muslim Fear

30 April, 2003 10:32 AM

Interesting post at Signposts here today after Phil chats with a Muslim friend about the feeling around his Mosque in regard to the invasion of Iraq.

A Muslims reflections on Easter

27 April, 2003 12:13 PM

This is a really interesting reflection on Easter from Karen who converted to Islam 9 years ago from Christianity.

thanks to Islam4Real for the link

Easter - Part Three

22 April, 2003 4:09 PM

It is Easter Sunday. A day of celebration yet we decided not to begin with Church but with creation and the great outdoors. St Kilda is bayside Melbourne. A beautiful clear day and the attraction beckons. Around the bay people are running and walking. Picnicking. Enjoying the company of family and friends. Laughter and relaxation. Good food along a packed Acland St. Spirited fun at Luna Park. The bay and the esplanade is splendid. For me images of the Kingdom abound. Testimony to the fact that God remains active in this world is self-evident. The vibe of St Kilda today was living life. Now I know this can be distorted and self-indulgent but if anyone on this earth should live and demonstrate a life of transformed celebration then it should be followers of Jesus. After all he modelled this zeal for friends, partying and others so perfectly. And what better day to be in a celebratory mood! So we did just that.

By night we visited a young adult service at St Hillary's. I think I was the oldest there and most were 16-25 years. Good folksy unpolished worship in song and role-play message. As far as Church goes it is clearly a pretty happening place. Good to reflect on the Resurrection. In the one breath I can say that I love the church and yet find it thoroughly exasperating. But my passion for communities of believers within all cultures is driven by a dream that one day the church, by whatever name we call it would reflect more of Christ and the Kingdom Now. How do we relate to existing churches if we are involved in incarnational work? I work with a overseas mission organisation and we encourage our workers who feel the need for whatever reason to attend a non-contextualised Church in the situation of their work among an unreached group to keep a cordial relationship with that church but not to take on any leadership role. Why? So as to stay focused on the task at hand. This is a discipline that is hard to keep and even more the case in Australia as we consider incarnational ministry and yet also can hear the voice of the existing church calling us to support what is already established and in many cases struggling.

Monday morning and we find ourselves 90 minutes down the coast watching the RipCurl Pro at Bells Beach. Sensational. Another day of creation and traces of Kingdom. Another subculture and serious tunes by Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, John Butler Trio, FooFighters and The Waifs. Easter 2003 - thanksgiving and M.I.L.K (moments of intimacy, love and kinship) intermixed with the ever-present challenge of mission and more than my share of chocolate.

My Easter - Part One

22 April, 2003 12:20 PM

I'm sorry that my blogging has slowed over Easter but we had an interstate visitor and man did we have 4 days of Christ and Culture.

On Thursday night from the airport we took Naomi (Nomes), a dear friend of ours to that classic icon of Melbourne eating — the Vegie Bar on Brunswick St. (Nomes is in her early 20's and after sharing some short-term mission trips together and a mission thinktank called 'unearthed' we just love dreaming and doing mission and it rocks to have her down). Anyway - back to the Vegie Bar. I love the deconstructed feel of this place for it stands in the face of so much sterile modernity constructions. Revealed beams, scarred walls, rough textured concrete flooring, edgy art and trance music. It has a real vibe. The imagery and the multiple messages somehow manages to direct conversation to things meaningful. Yet I hear of church after church that is selling or demolishing their old stain-glassed buildings and going for sterile modernity constructions that feel more like a boring office space than a place of spiritual inquiry and solace. Imagine the kind of space one could create. Perhaps not multi-purpose as per the Saddleback/Willow Creek church growth model of church but so much more multi-experiential. It this just me or are others feeling the same? If anything we should be selling our large multi-purpose buildings that are not naturally part of the community and buying up stacks and stacks of small creative spaces that are. Just a thought.

On Friday morning we made our way up to the local park for a �Ecumenical Stations of the Cross�. Good concept. Using a public space to facilitate reflection on the death of Christ but 10am on a public holiday saw few using this park. So it was Church just moved to a new location. We were talking about this at �Living Room� last week and wondering how could you do something like this in a way that connected in with the natural rhythms and gathering places of our communities in this area in the days leading up to Easter. An art inspired spiritual journey along Brunswick Street or in North Fitzroy or on High St?

In the afternoon we got on our bikes and took the Yarra trail into the city. There is a real bike-riding ethos in Melbourne. Some people in the inner north are quite vocal about this and see a bike ride as a stance against our the environmental vandalism caused by our dependence on cars. I love this for I see it as an expression of a longing for Shalom and a restored world. Kingdom stuff that believers should be at the forefront of. But for many of us and me included a bike ride has been or is often just exercise or a way to improve our body image. But how about it as expression of my worldview and my values. Sure makes a bike ride all the more meaningful and challenges our sacred/secular divide.

In at Federation Square was the MILK art display. MILK is an acrostic for �Moments of Intimacy, Love and Kinship�. It was a beautiful day and there were hundreds of people just taking it all in. No sermon. No music. But a picture tells a thousand words and you could not but come away inspired to be more accepting, loving and appreciative of others. On Easter Friday God was there. The reason for the Cross brilliantly illustrated.

We decided it was time to put some of this into action. So I loaded a foam mattress into the back of our car with doonas and pillows and we headed off to the drive-in. We (my wife Chrissy, Nomes, Yolly and I) all crawled into the back of our 5-door hatch and with the rear door lifted up we got mega cosy watching �The Wild Thornberry's�. It was a moment of intimacy, love and kinship. My daughter is still raving.

But this is only Friday and Sunday is still coming.

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