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  • Conversations Journal – 2015 – August
    a small ledge built of stray stone and debris that acts as an altar To one side are the last fragments of his meager meal unleavened bread now hard and brittle like the hands that broke it He owns a shredded tattered copy of the Gospels a few small candles an embarrassingly threadbare cloak and the deep ecstasies afforded an old mystic of silent prayer He had not seen another soul for over two weeks not since the last colloquy of seekers had come from the towns for spiritual counsel a service he rendered as often as was needed The rest of the time he prayed in the broad spacious silence of the Egyptian desert If you are like me your life is the former but your soul longs for the latter And unless your name is Antony or one of his eremetic contemporaries you have not lived much of your life alone Nor have you experienced much in the way of solitude None of us have in fact When the sun sinks low in the evening sky is the time shadows are most insistent pronounced surprising It gives the impression that the world is somehow larger than the sum of its parts We are the solid matter behind the suggestions of our own shadows Without our physical presence nothing appears Yet conversely without shadows we are but ghosts There is no substance from which is cast forward any proof of our existence We live among ghosts and shadows Before our structures of commerce built of hollow bones and the featureless droning of our money lust lived taller souls Antony of Egypt Augustine Bishop of Hippo Julian of Norwich Bernard de Clairvaux Mechthild of Magdeburg John of the Cross Thomas Merton They were those whose smallness cast forward agreatness holy mustard seeds dwarfing the hungry world around them And their shadows have not been silent Nor have they been still If we are to become greater than our shadows would suggest we would be wise to envelope ourselves in the calming grey shade of saints who have soaked up enough light that they shield us from God s glory that would immolate us in our tepid backward lives These luminaries shine out like shook foil thank you Gerard Manley Hopkins even as Moses face shone after gazing into the great abyss that is the face of I Am We too can do the same How How do two scenarios so utterly different find commonality How do the prismic lives of these great saints enter our own ashen experience of contemporary chaos Is it possible for the ascetic unitive consciousness of Antony to become our own Can he who had no wife and children no mortgage or debt no rush hour anxiety or job insecurities to deal with speak into our lives How do such ancient voices so removed from the modern experience of shameless hurry find their place within us Right neither do I Instead I offer a frightening consideration

    Original URL path: http://conversationsjournal.com/2015/08/ (2016-04-28)
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  • Conversations Journal – 2015 – July
    0 Worship Finding Transformation in New Old Songs By Robert Rife July 21 2015 in Blog What s on your Heart BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT October 1981 I was years old a touring musician forty pounds overweight an alcoholic and a chain smoker And I was a newly converted follower of Jesus I sat in a little evangelical church in Calgary Alberta with fellow musician and touring buddy Trent pseudonym I was blissfully happy possessing a kind of post pothead perma grin that caused some to smile others to pull their children closer It was my first time in church for many years Allow me to recount my first impressions I should ve showered first These people all kind of look the same But happy Wow husbands and wives are holding hands in public But for our purposes here This praise band is kinda hokey But man these people love to sing Thus began my education in congregational music Read More Post a comment 0 What About Those Drowning Egyptians By Jan Johnson July 27 2015 in Blog What s on your Heart BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT Someone who recently saw the movie Exodus Gods and Kings asked me how a good God could drown the Egyptian soldiers in the sea Here are a few thoughts that came to me God weeps over the destruction of people who choose to do evil not just over those who do good In the Old Testament God sobbed over nations as a grieving parent would sob over an erring child Therefore I weep with the weeping of Jazer I drench you with my tears Isa 16 9 11 And whom was God weeping for Moab and later Babylon even though these countries oppressed Israel Look away from me let me weep

    Original URL path: http://conversationsjournal.com/2015/07/ (2016-04-28)
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  • Conversations Journal – 2015 – June
    dominated the prayer lists Now Muslim nations top the list of places of intense persecution for God s people It is with great sorrow that I read about the kidnapping of the Chibok girls from their school in Nigeria by Boko Haran over a year ago In pain I continue to read about the hundreds of women and children who have been recently rescued by the Nigerian army women who have seen their husbands killed and their children scattered Woman who have been forced at gun point to convert to Islam and marry Boko Haram fighters Women traumatized at levels I cannot even imagine their homes and families devastated All over the world as I sit at home warm and well fed children are denied education men refused jobs or jailed simply because they seek to follow Christ women live in fear that relatives will discover their faith and kill them Read More Post a comment 1 Acceptance Then What By Jan Johnson June 18 2015 in Blog Current Events Formation BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT I recently blogged about accepting people as they are I received many appreciative emails especially about this line Expectations are the early stages of resentment I also received some good questions Here are my responses But isn t it sometimes good to confront people Yes but acceptance is still crucial Talking it out works only if we both have a right heart Even if only one of us has a right heart that generosity of spirit can be contagious How does letting go of expectations of others apply to the work setting and a supervisory relationship What should happen if there are expectations that are not met In The Divine Conspiracy Dallas Willard talked about the difference between condemnation and discernment Read More Post

    Original URL path: http://conversationsjournal.com/2015/06/ (2016-04-28)
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  • Conversations Journal – 2015 – May
    one s pain in the larger offense of the gospel To see our pain from a cosmic paschal mystery perspective is to add a depth of meaning to it which in itself can be healing We become the Beloved Community as we reach out in confidence realizing our truest identity as beloved children of God Amen to that 1 Utilizing Scandrette s own process he calls Becoming the Beloved Community create an intentional gathering of your family small group or congregation in which to practice the process of forgiveness Identify gifted facilitators to assist Have them guide the group through the experiment a Identify persons or groups with whom we have conflict b Through prayerful consideration root out experiences of discomfort created by those conflictual relationships c Clarify the nature of the tension social distance disappointment boundary challenges wounding d Determine in your community what action s need to take place to move on Navigate together how best to address one another s broken relationships e Pray over them f Reconvene at an agreed upon time in the future to evaluate and retool for the future 2 Again using Scandrette s own rubric follow the three steps he outlines in the process toward forgiveness Gather together around a fireplace After prayerfully considering the steps each person writes on a piece of paper the name of the offending person how they offended all the resultant feelings experienced and your commitment to forgive Then in an act of faithful surrender toss the paper into the fire with following prayer Gracious God of grace we have all been given what we do not deserve in the cross I now offer the same to another for how they have offended me I choose to forgive in order that I may find freedom and the courage to press into all life has for me for us Thanks be to God Christian Community More Than a Wish Dream by Cynthia Bezek Cynthia Bezek s thoughts bow to those of the great Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a mock interview Based on his book Life Together she chooses a series of questions through which she mines the deeply devoted soul of the German martyr In so doing we are given a peek into his theology of Christian community of which he wrote and cared about so much Here are some of those foundational ideas First Christian community comes in one way alone through Christ from whom it gets its name identity and mission Second Christian community is based not on illusion rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream or wishful thinking but squarely on the finished work of Christ rooted in grace It is a fellowship forged in truth from God s perspective Third detachment neither for the purpose of reengagement or for engagement lacking intent to nourish the root of such engagement are alike faulty and to be spurned Neither fellowship without solitude or solitude without fellowship can promise true Christian community says Bonhoeffer Fourth the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them active helpfulness with an end of bearing one another s burdens Fifth we discern when and how to impart to one another the severity and mercy of God s Word which quite often may lead us to be silent Sixth we seek to admonish rather than chide and seek the inner disposition of grace toward our brothers and sisters by means of interceding for them 1 The Christian community is not a spiritual sanatorium Since the presence of well meaning brothers and sisters can offer such a panacea of grace how does this statement of Bonhoeffer s strike you 2 Commit to reading Life Together in a small group of friends over an agreed upon period of time Determine what you d like to glean together On that basis have each person design his or her own interview with Bonhoeffer using portions of the book as his answers Compare and contrast with those in the group What common themes emerge What differences 3 Choose one or more of the themes found in Bezek s interview Discern areas in your relationships with others that Bonheoffer s words might address Prayerfully determine steps to amend those relationships where broken Faith In Through Despite Failure By Valerie Hess May 6 2015 in Blog Faith Through Failure BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT My life flows on in endless song Above earth s lamentation I hear the real though far off hymn That hails a new creation No storm can shake my inmost calm While to that rock I m clinging It sounds an echo in my soul How can I keep from singing What though the tempest round me roars I know the truth it liveth What though the darkness round me close Songs in the night it giveth No storm can shake my inmost calm While to that rock I m clinging Since love is lord of heaven and earth How can I keep from singing I lift my eyes the cloud grows thin I see the blue above it And day by day this pathway smooths Since first I learned to love it The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart A fountain ever springing All things are mine since I am his How can I keep from singing Robert Wadsworth Lowry Read More Post a comment 0 Front Page Purchase Print Volume Purchase PDF Volume Volume 13 1 Spring Summer 2015 Section Front Page Purchase Article PDF Format Purchase Print Volume Purchase PDF Volume BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT The aim of God in history is the creation of an all inclusive community of loving persons with Himself included in that community as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant Dallas Willard When I shared with a friend of mine someone who s been a pastor missionary and is now a retreat leader in the mountains of Colorado that this issue of Conversations Journal would be

    Original URL path: http://conversationsjournal.com/2015/05/ (2016-04-28)
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  • Conversations Journal – 2015 – April
    Rife April 30 2015 in Blog 3 Comments I get lost easily Especially in parking lots They are a desert wasteland of desperation and woe my wilderness and the bane of my existence It s funny to those who know me best annoying and confounding to me Many are the times I ve lost my way in the Safeway parking lot often in an ungodly fog of non Sunday school language The average parking lot is generally well marked and designed to streamline the inflow of traffic ease of parking and relatively painless escape Read More Post a comment 3 Along Together An Epidemic In the Church It s Time To Rethink Incarnational Community Purchase Print Volume Purchase PDF Volume Volume 13 1 Spring Summer 2015 Section Intentionality Of The Heart Purchase Article PDF Format Purchase Print Volume Purchase PDF Volume BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT Why is it that so many church people feel so untransformed So stuck in patterns that they don t understand or don t want Why in their most reflective moments do they often feel alone misunderstood disenchanted or at the very least out of place in regard to their community experience with others even in the church Certainly many reasons feed this epidemic of noncommunity but the church hasn t helped solve this quandary Perhaps a fresh look at what incarnational community is and aspires to be might be an antidote for our current malaise When Sherry Turkle 1 wrote Alone Together her deep and thoughtful book describing how technology is affecting social interactions in our present world little did she know that her book title gives voice to a much bigger problem shared even within our own sacred communities This alone together dilemma is more pervasive than the power and influence of social media affecting our relationships it is a very real disposition for many Christians in the church today I have to confess right out of the gate that this issue is important to me both on a professional level as a pastor and now professor who trains pastors and as a disciple of Jesus who believes that our current hyperindividualism and consumerism is crushing our ability to be the church whose best witness to Jesus is local groups of people churches who have become genuine loving communities My experience has taught me that I am a better person when I live within a context of other disciples who love me who know me and who have genuine connectedness and insight to help me grow when I can t see straight or even see myself in a healthy way In other words I m not at my best when I am isolated and alone You see community is a critical means for your transformation and mine But we ve lost our muscle memory of what it is though the dull ache in our hearts still remains No matter what our particular temperaments and personalities God created us as communal creatures in spite

    Original URL path: http://conversationsjournal.com/2015/04/ (2016-04-28)
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  • Conversations Journal – 2015 – March
    received there Ahhh A silent retreat Where do I sign up I cannot think of a time in my life during which such an offer would not have been attractive But the more I thought about it with schedules and child care I simply couldn t pull it off Most of us can t get away for that kind of retreat though many gifts admittedly await those who can Our spiritual lives needn t be dependent on these times though we can discover the rich gifts of a deep spirituality right in our own homes I needed to learn how to care for my own soul right in the midst of my own life with the brothers not monastic brothers but the three active boys who share my home Read More Post a comment 1 Thirsty By Lesa Engelthaler March 18 2015 in Blog Desert Spirituality 3 Comments He supposed that even in Hell people got an occasional sip of water if only so they could appreciate the full horror of unrequited thirst when it set in again Stephen King In 2008 I entered a desert a spiritual wasteland that some refer to as a Dark Night of the Soul and stayed for three years As the spiritual darkness lingered a few folks braved asking if I might be depressed I had wondered that myself The gaping hole in my relationship with the God I knew definitely made me unhappy When I asked my doctor about depression she asked me about my life We had never discussed to whom I was married I said My husband is a pastor After describing how I hadn t heard from God in a long time she replied Bummer That can t be easy as a preacher s wife Read More Post a comment

    Original URL path: http://conversationsjournal.com/2015/03/ (2016-04-28)
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  • Conversations Journal – 2015 – February
    February 4 2015 in Blog The Big Questions 3 Comments Each of us is an artist of our days the greater our integrity and awareness the more original and creative our time will become John O Donohue 1 As I step back from the numerous and varied tributaries in the meandering river of my pursuit of meaning I m drawn to a few binding agents the eggs in the dough as it were that keep things together and unified One can boil down all spiritual pursuits to a few simple factors that fuse and simplify all our seeking If I were to distill the lowest common denominators that provide the ingredients for our slow cook crockpot formation I would submit humility and awareness Let s talk about one of those Awareness is to spirituality what books are to writers It is the raw material from which all change comes Anne Lamott says it best Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave They show us what community and friendship mean they show us how to live and die And quality of attention we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention 2 Read More Post a comment 3 Trust God Do the Next Thing By Jan Johnson February 18 2015 in Blog The Big Questions 3 Comments The book Abandoned to God the biography of Oswald Chambers who wrote My Utmost for His Highest and many other books is full of wisdom as well as being an interesting story One of Chambers favorite sayings was Trust God and do the next thing He lived this whether he was starting a new training college or serving as a WW1 military chaplain to soldiers facing

    Original URL path: http://conversationsjournal.com/2015/02/ (2016-04-28)
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  • Conversations Journal – 2015 – January
    weekly service of commitment in Iona Abbey in the late 19 90 s The service takes different forms but essentially involves people being offered the opportunity in some symbolic way to affirm their commitment to Christ and or to a specific aspect of discipleship Re committing to Christ and or to practices that help us follow him better is a good New Year s resolution Read More Post a comment 0 What I promise not to do in 2015 By Robert Rife January 12 2015 in Blog BE THE FIRST TO COMMENT Everyone and their dog they usually under pseudonyms have written on the topic of New Year s resolutions You know those slurred declarations made in a eggnog fog sitting on the boss s lap that this year will be different It is apparently the rage to write clever quips about them drawing fresh insight this despite the fact that all those blog posts are themselves quasi resolutions to write 500 words a day or some such thing So in order to keep expectations well and truly low allow me to be the dog portion of this equation and add yet another A new year Is it just cultural

    Original URL path: http://conversationsjournal.com/2015/01/ (2016-04-28)
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