Posted by: Philip Rushton | May 27, 2020

Contemplative Wednesdays: Living Stones

In this weeks video reflection I offer some thoughts about what it means to be the church while we are scattered. I draw on the metaphor from 1 Peter 2:4 where he describes us as “Living Stones”

Posted by: Philip Rushton | May 13, 2020

Not So Contemplative Wednesday: At Home Edition

Hi Everyone,

For my video reflection this week I’m at home with the three boys. Here are a few thoughts of encouragement for those juggling the challenges of being at home with kids. The verse I highlight is from Isaiah 40:11 which reads: “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.” I notice in this text God’s awareness of the extra challenges parents face, and his desire to gently lead and care for those who have young ones.

Here’s the video:

 

I also wanted to share this song by the Porter’s Gate music project called “Every Father, Every Mother.” May this song encourage those of you called to raise a son or daughter.

Posted by: Philip Rushton | April 29, 2020

Contemplative Wednesdays: College Campus Edition

This week I continue my teaching series on the post-resurrection accounts in the gospel of John. In this edition I look at the story of doubting Thomas in John 20:24-29. I share some thoughts about the role that doubt plays in the development of our faith, and explore the difference between healthy and unhealthy doubt.

Posted by: Philip Rushton | April 15, 2020

Contemplative Wednesdays: Garden Edition

Hi Everyone,

Here is my weekly video reflection during the Covid-19 crisis. This week I look at John 20:10-18 and explore how Mary discovers hope in the midst of grief.

Here is the quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning I referenced in the talk:

“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God, But only he who sees takes off his shoes; The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

Posted by: Philip Rushton | April 9, 2020

Contemplative Wednesdays: Thursday Edition

Hi Friends,

This week I bumped my Contemplative Wednesday talk to Thursday to lead us through a Maundy Thursday prayer service. Here’s the video. To follow along you can access the order of service here: https://www.longviewcommunitychurch.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Maundy-Thursday-Live-Stream.pdf

To just listen to the message, it starts at 9:34 into the livestream.

 

The audio didn’t pick up my guitar that well. Here’s an mp3 of the song I sang at the end if you want a better quality:

O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go

1. O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
that in thine ocean depths its flow
may richer, fuller be.

2. O Light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
my heart restores its borrowed ray,
that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
may brighter, fairer be.

3. O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow thru the rain,
and feel the promise is not vain,
that morn shall tearless be.

4. O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
and from the ground there blossoms red
life that shall endless be.

Posted by: Philip Rushton | March 25, 2020

Contemplative Wednesdays: Bell-Tower Edition

Hi Everyone,

During the Covid-19 Crisis, I’m continuing to provide teaching on Wednesday nights via Facebook Live. During the Lenten season, I am hosting some reflections on prayer and spirituality called “Contemplative Wednesdays.” This week’s edition is streamed live from our bell-tower. In this edition, I talk about developing our rhythms of prayer. Below you’ll find the video, as well as the Thomas Merton quote and evening prayer referenced in this talk. I host these talks at 7:15pm Wednesdays on the LVCC Facebook Page.

“Bells” by Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Bells are meant to remind us that God alone is good, that we belong to Him, that we are not living for this world.

They break in upon our cares in order to remind us that all things pass away and that our preoccupations are not important.

They speak to us of our freedom, which responsibilities and transient cares make us forget. They are the voice of our alliance with the God of heaven. They tell us that we are His true temple. They call us to peace with Him within ourselves. . .

The bells say: business does not matter. Rest in God and rejoice, for this world is only the figure and the promise of a world to come, and only those who are detached from transient things can possess the substance of an eternal promise.

The bells say: we have spoken for centuries from the towers of great Churches. We have spoken to the saints, your fathers, in their land. We called them, as we call you, to sanctity. What is the word with which we called them?

We did not merely say, “Be good, come to Church.” We did not merely say “Keep the commandments” but above all, “Christ is risen, Christ is risen!” And we said, “Come with us, God is good, salvation is not hard, His love has made it easy!” And this, our message, has always been for everyone, for those who came and for those who did not come, for our song is as perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect and we pour our charity out upon all.

Evening Prayer from the Monks of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Carlton, OR

Now in the fading light of day
Maker of all to you we pray
That with your ever watchful love
You guard and keep us from above

Help and defend us through the night
Danger and terror put to flight
Never let evil have its way
Preserve us for another day.

Posted by: Philip Rushton | March 18, 2020

Contemplative Wednesdays: Sophie Edition

During the Covid-19 crisis we are unable to meet in person for the foreseeable future. Since I usually teach on Wednesday evenings, I thought I’d continue to provide some Wednesday night teaching via Facebook Live.  Join me Wednesdays at 7:15 for a short time for spiritual reflection and contemplation on the LVCC Facebook page. Between now and Easter I am going to host some reflections on prayer called “Contemplative Wednesdays.” Following Easter I am going to lead a 4-week series on the post-Easter resurrection encounters with Jesus. I am going to explore how the Easter story intersects our experiences of grief (Mary), doubt (Thomas), regret (Peter), and fear (The disciples in the upper room).

My first live-stream focuses on how to pray the Ignatian prayer of examen. If you missed it you can view the video here: https://www.facebook.com/109595110389321/videos/2317534308548417/.  I often pray the prayer of examen while walking my dog Sophie at Lake Sacajawea, so I invited Sophie to join me for this video at the lake.

 

 

If you are interested in praying the prayer of examen on your own here is the guide:

Examen Prayer

 Centering

  • Take a minute to be still.
  • Ask God for help you see his presence as you review the day.
  • Some Centering prayers that might help
    • Ephesians 1:18 “ I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people
    • Lord, open our eyes, that we may see the beauty of goodness. Lord, open our ears, that we may hear the truth. Lord, open our lips, that we may show forth your praise
    • “Behold God beholding you… and smiling.” –Anthony De Mello, S.J.

Gratitude:

  • Spend some time giving thanks for the gifts of this day. “Lord this day we have just lived is a gift from you. Help us to see the signs of your beauty, truth and goodness. Hear our prayers of gratitude and praise.”

Introspection:

  • Reflect over your day starting from when you woke up until now.
  • Ask God for help you to notice the strong interior movements and feelings that arose this day whether pleasing (like joy, peace, compassion, confidence, excitement or hope), or painful, (like sadness, anxiety, self-doubt, jealously, anger, or confusion)
  • Ask the spirit to help you to zero in on one or two of the experiences you had today that God wants you to pray about.
  • If they are positive movements where you were close to God, rejoice
  • If they are painful moments where you were drawn away from God, seek, help, forgiveness, or reconciliation.

Grace

  • After reviewing the day take some time to just sit silently contemplating the grace of God.
  • Rejoice in the grace of God’s provision, mercy, and forgiveness.

Look Ahead

  • End the day looking ahead to tomorrow
  • Reflect on how you can approach tomorrow in light of the ways God has been present in your life today. You may want to ask for help, strength, peace, or guidance regarding the things you are anticipating tomorrow.

Close

  • You may want to close with the Lord’s Prayer, thank God for this time of prayer, or just sit in silence.
Posted by: Philip Rushton | March 6, 2019

Nothing is More Practical than Loving God

Hi Readers,

As many of you know, I have taken a long break from blogging while writing my doctoral dissertation this past year and a half. I’m excited to report that my dissertation has been approved!

My project is titled, “From Insight to Encounter: The Ignatian Spiritual Exercises and the Transformation of the Heart.” In my project, I look at how spiritual formation requires not only the reorientation of our thinking but also requires the reorientation of what we love. What we love directs and shapes our lives. I explore how Ignatius of Loyola’s approach to prayer and scripture meditation facilitates the reorientation of our desires. Along with this, I explore how the reorientation of our heart provides the foundation on which effective missional engagement happens. Prayer, in the Ignatian tradition, is not an escapist activity, but rather a foundation for practical engagement in our hurting world.

A quote that captures the heart of what my project is all about comes from the former Jesuit Superior Pedro Arrupe.  He writes:

“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”

If you’d like to experiment with the Ignatian approach to scripture meditation and prayer I’ve put together a 40-day prayer challenge for our church titled “Awake My Soul.” Many are planning to use this prayer guide during the Lenten season which begins this week. To access this guide you can find it at the following link:

https://www.longviewcommunitychurch.org/2019/03/06/awake-my-sou-a-40-day-prayer-challenge/

If you would like to hear a short talk I gave about the project as well as a testimony from Nelson Graham, who participated in the praxis component of my project, you can listen here:

You can also view an outline of the talk with quotes and references included: Epiphany Reflection Outline Source Info

Once I recover from this long season of writing I hope to re-engage the blogosphere!

God Bless!

Phil

Posted by: Philip Rushton | September 11, 2017

Beyond Cool: The Gift of Intergenerational Community

“There is neither hipster nor boomer, guitar player nor organist, nor are there young families and retirees, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” My paraphrase of Galatians 3:28

In preparation for our small group leader retreat this past weekend I watched a number of talks from a discipleship conference called, “Verge.” The conference was primarily made up of young urban church planters. Everything about it struck me as very cool. Most of the speakers wore dark-rimmed “post-modern” glasses and skinny jeans, the stage had state of the art lighting, and the graphic design was sleek.

There was a noticeable contrast between this cool hipster conference and my humble small group leader retreat. We viewed a couple of the sessions from the “Verge” conference because the content was helpful, but our gathering did not have the same cool factor. My powerpoint graphics weren’t very “urban.” We were also an intergenerational group that spanned from age 30 to 90. I helped one of our members who is in a wheelchair navigate the stairs. Our group burst out laughing when one of the speakers referred to a 50-year-old in his congregation as an “old guy.”

As I witnessed the juxtaposition between this cool hipster conference and our small intergenerational leadership gathering I found myself feeling very grateful.  I felt blessed to be part of a church that has managed to forge a unique setting where people from different generations can collaborate and faithfully serve God together.

Hipster Christianity, Revisited, Brian McCraken

Hipster Christianity, Revisited

This morning I read an article by Brett McCracken titled, “Hipster Christianity, Revisited.” In the article, he suggests that there are, “Instances where the inherent qualities of cool clash with those of the gospel.” He argues that when churches place too much emphasis on being cool, they can compromise what it means to be an authentic Christian community. He writes:

The medium of cool is necessarily exclusivist; it can only exist as a minority, in-the-know subculture. Not everyone can be cool. Indeed, this idea drives fashion’s fast-moving ephemerality. If something is cool for too long, it becomes known and accessible to too many. How does this exclusivism square with a faith that is fundamentally inclusive and open-to-all?

The answer to that question, of course, is that exclusivity does not square with Christianity. One of the values of the early church was to promote unity in the midst of diversity. The church made a huge effort to bring together people from different racial and socio-economic backgrounds. This was very counter-cultural in the ancient world.  Wealthy people did not associate with the poor. The idea of getting Jews and Gentiles in the same room together was unheard of. Yet, the message of Christ compelled this new movement to bridge these barriers.

The contemporary church, however, is extremely homogenous. Martin Luther King Jr. once declared Sunday morning at 11am as the most homogenous hour of the week in America. I am noticing that this is becoming especially true around the issue of age.  Intergenerational communities are becoming rarer. Many young church plants target a certain age demographic. Some large churches even provide multiple worship services to cater to the tastes of each age group. While this might make church life easier, it seems to confront the gospel values of reconciliation and diversity.

McCracken recognizes that it is legitimate and necessary to try and contextualize the gospel in ways that reach different people. We are, after all, a people who believe in the incarnation. Jesus took on flesh and moved into the world in order to explain himself to us. This models for us a call to make the gospel accessible to people.  Perhaps there are contexts where some will be called to become a hipster to reach the hipster.  However, McCracken suggests that we need to recognize how the methods by which we communicate the gospel impact the message. Contextualization becomes problematic when it causes us to sacrifice the values of the gospel. He suggests that our over-emphasis on being cool has the potential to create communities that are individualistic and exclusive.

I have grown to appreciate our intergenerational church community.  While we are certainly not as cool as some of the young hipster churches that are being planted, we experience a level of community that I think some of these “cool” churches are missing.

First, there is a sense of openness in an intergenerational church.  We do not have to fit a certain mold to belong.  Our Sunday morning service provides a beautiful (and colorful) collage of Hawaiian shirts, neckties, blue jeans, wool suits, Seahawks jerseys and blue-tinged perms.  One does not have to be wearing the right kind of plaid or have a tattoo to fit in here!

Second, our intergenerational community is teaching me humility.  In some of the emergent church literature these days I sense a subtle ageism or generational arrogance.  Some of the speakers at this conference seemed to imply that previous generations totally missed the mark about the church.  It is as if nothing good happened between the first-century church and the twenty-first-century church.  The true church of the Bible is finally re-emerging after years of failure.  As I have had the privilege of walking alongside believers who are a couple generations ahead of me I have discovered that this is absolutely not true.  In fact, I often see a higher level of commitment and sacrifice to the mission of God in the members who are older than me.  I am overcome with respect for my 90-year-old friend who is still showing up to leadership gatherings even though he has had a stroke and needs help getting up the stairs.  This is something us younger folks can learn from.  Being a disciple has nothing to do with being cool.  It has everything to do with being faithful!

Lastly, diversity provides a context where we can learn reconciliation. It is important for us to learn how to be hospitable to those who are different from us. Whereas homogeneity breeds individualism and selfishness, diversity creates a context where we learn to make sacrifices for other people.  This happened beautifully on Sunday morning during our combined worship service.  Some of our members put up with drums and songs they have never heard, while others listened to the organ for the first time in a while and tried to figure out the tune to the old hymn, “His eye is on the sparrow.”  I found myself unusually teary-eyed on Sunday.  This convergence of different music reminded me that the church does not exist to cater to my preferences and needs.  The church is supposed to be a community where we can learn to die to ourselves and love our neighbor as ourselves. Diversity, I believe, provides a context where this can start to happen.

 

Posted by: Philip Rushton | January 3, 2017

Losing Jesus: Reflections for a New Year

“After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.”  Luke 2:43

Well, friends, the festivities are coming to an end for us as well. Christmas is over, the New Year has arrived, and this week many of us get back to work or school. We return to the regular rhythms of life.  In the midst of this transition, I wonder if we have a tendency to leave Jesus behind as well?

I’ve noticed an interesting dynamic that seems to take place between Christmas Day and New Years Day. At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a savior. We tell a story about our need for God’s intervention in our lives. God is our peace, our joy, and our hope!  On New Year’s day, however, we tend to become self-reliant again.  We test out the capacity of our will power.  We set goals, start diets, plan to get in shape, decide to read through the entire Bible, only to fall back into our bad habits by February 1.

I came across an article in the New York Times that cites a study saying 95% of New Year’s resolutions are broken by February. The writer makes this concluding statement, “Studies suggest, then, that willpower is a limited resource.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I believe in setting goals. As the old adage goes, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time!” Goals and plans can direct us in helpful ways. But I wonder if we struggle with our attempt to grow because we are relying on a limited resource.  I wonder if our longings for change fall short because we lose sight of our need to stay connected to Christ.  I wonder if we struggle because we have a tendency to leave Jesus behind.

There are a lot of reasons why Jesus gets left behind. Like Mary and Joseph, we can simply go along with the crowd. We can let those around us set the pace and the direction of life without making sure Jesus is with us. Sometimes Jesus gets lost simply because we allow the rhythms of our busy world to set the agenda. Instead of approaching life with the question, “Who is Jesus calling me to be?,” we begin with the question, “What do I have to get done?” And suddenly the demands of everyday life build up and crowd out our deeper calling.

Sometimes, Like Mary and Joseph, we can lose Jesus even in a religious crowd. They are in a group of devout worshippers who are returning after their pilgrimage to Jerusalem. In the same way, we too may be busy doing religious activities, thinking Jesus is with us when perhaps we are missing the point. We may be doing all kinds of ministry, but perhaps we forget to carve out space to actually look for Jesus and sit with him in the temple and hear what his plans are for us!

Sometimes, Like Mary and Joseph, we lose Jesus because we assume that we know where he is. When Mary and Joseph find Jesus, it says they were astonished. And I wonder – are we ever astonished by Jesus? Are we open to the possibility that he has more to teach us, or that we have something wrong? Are we open to learning new things from him?

N.T. Wright says, “Every time we relax and think we’ve really understood Jesus, he will be up ahead, or perhaps staying behind while we go on without thinking.” This story is a reminder that we need to be careful that we don’t assume we have Jesus figured out.  If Mary and Joseph were caught off guard by Jesus, perhaps we need to be open to the fact that we have more to learn as well!

Sometimes, like Mary and Joseph, the journey back to God will feel like we are going backward. I think of them turning back and finding Jesus. They had walked a whole day and it took them three more days to find him. This was a disruption and an inconvenience. It got in the way of their productivity and their plan. Yet, it was a journey they needed to take.

Sometimes spiritual progress feels like a backward movement. In retrospect, I’ve noticed that it has been those times of hardship, doubt, and disorientation that God has used the most to grow my faith.

Spiritual growth isn’t a straight path. We ought not to be discouraged when we feel like we are circling backward or going over ground we thought we wouldn’t have to cover again. Barry Gillespie writes, “The path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper truths.”

Friends, for some of us 2017 won’t feel productive. Perhaps you look out on the horizon and see hardship, sickness, grief, or pain. Maybe Jesus seems distant and you’re struggling to see him or find him in your life. Know that God is often in these times. These seasons that feel like backward movement can be times when God is doing some of his greatest work in our lives.

Like Mary and Joseph, we may question Jesus saying, “Why did you do this to us?” Yet, maybe Jesus is in the disruption, the hardship, the backward movement. Maybe he is actually leading us back to what really matters.

Today we begin a New Year. We step out into the unknown full of hope and longing. But before we embark on this journey of 2017 let’s begin with this question – “Where’s Jesus?”

Perhaps, the starting point for this year is not to forge ahead making big plans. Maybe the starting point for us is to sit with Jesus in the temple for a while and listen to what he has to say. This is what Jesus models for us.  Above all the expectations of the world, he reminds us that first and foremost we need to carve out space to listen to God.

As you look ahead to 2017 perhaps you might bring Jesus into the conversation. You might ask Jesus, “What do you have in store for me this year?,” or, “Where do you want to lead me?” These questions are vital for our hope for the future rests on the continual presence of Jesus in our lives.

As we begin 2017 let’s not leave Jesus behind!

 

 

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