On Experiencing God — Matthew 5 [a practical, biblical study of scripture]

Excerpt from Devotional Sessions | Practical Spirituality

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-17, prompted from Devotional Sessions – Phil Rice).

Take a few moments away from the busyness of life. After a long breath… and then another, read through these words of Jesus a few more times.

Jesus said that we are light in our world. Take some time and sit with Holy Spirit in this question, What does it look like for me to be light in my world? Allow him to speak to you about the characteristics of light. Is light loud or soft? Subtle or demanding? Safe or dangerous? How is Holy Spirit leading you to be light in your world?

Thank Holy Spirit for any understanding he has given. If you feel like there is more for him to show you about being light in your world, take another day or two with this session. There’s no need to rush.

My personal engagement with this session

I love this picture of light. Jesus has called me as light in my world and he has invited me to burn — burn with his goodness, love, hope, adventure, longing, desire, passion. I’m continually asking Holy Spirit what it looks like for me to be light along the path God has given me to walk. Light looks different from medium to medium, it looks different from environment to environment. This is why it’s so necessary for me to continually ask the question. Lord, what does it look like for me to be light here and now?

An added note from Phil Rice

I hope you’ve benefited from this excerpt from Devotional Sessions | Practical Spirituality. Share this session with anyone you think would be impacted and don’t hesitate to leave questions or comments for our mutual benefit of continued conversation.

Thanks for journeying alongside,
Phil Rice

 

find me social —Instagram —Twitter —Facebook —Soundcloud

find me here too —philrice.blogPractical Spirituality —Ember

3 thoughts on walking your unique path — Phil Rice

I will be measured only by what He asked of me [his path for me]

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I will not be measured by what others expected of me, I will be measured only by what He asked if me. 

This is from my process in the article Church. Do I fit the model? more than organization. And I think it’s worth spending a little time expounding…

This is reality. I will stand before God one day. I will be measured by my obedience to him in how I walked my singular path, not in the way I walked parallel to the path of another. We glean from one another. But at the end, we stand before God —alone— accounting for our purpose and life. Kind of a heavy statement. But like everything else, we have the opportunity to walk these things out with slow, simple, intentionality.

 

1. Live as the exception

Don’t assume that just because this is how everyone does it, that this is how you must do it [whatever the “it” happens to be]. The common way forward is not your compass bearing. Your way forward is your compass bearing.

And the great thing is, we each have the opportunity to live as the exception. We are so uniquely gifted and diversely wired [and diversely weird] that we have the opportunity to chart a course that is unique to us and our own flavor.

When I was in the throws of starting Ember, there were plenty of reasons why it would fail and only a few reasons why it would succeed. I scribbled ‘live as the exception’ on a note on my desk and looked at it every day [sometimes several times a day… what a wild ride]. I wasn’t saying, ‘Man… I’m way better than everyone else, of course I can do this.’ It was simply a commitment to myself to fully be myself in my role and to reach past what was expected. It was about approaching this [differently].

 

2. Fear is not a good enough excuse

Fear is not a good excuse. But it is a good indicator of something that I have an opportunity to move beyond. I like the way Kris Vallotton said it, ‘the dogs of doom stand at the doors of our destiny.’ I’m into that. What are we afraid of? How can we move beyond those doors?

Fear of lack should not keep us from our path. We can always get by on less than we think we can. What if we have to downsize [or have a few roommates! which is one of our favorite things, btw…]? What if we have to sell one of the cars [or buy an old one… or drive a scooter, hey!]? What if we have to relocate [or not relocate]? For our family, these are completely valid solutions for being financially freed up to follow the road that God has set in front of us. The adventure far outweighs the cost of things. [Tim Ferriss has a really simple and fantastic exercise called Fear Setting to pinpoint and move beyond our fear. check it out.]

Fear of reputation should not keep us from our path. What if no one is into what I’m [selling, making, writing, creating, producing]? What if no one agrees with my [thoughts, perspective, religious beliefs, political persuasion, food choices, lifestyle decisions, career path]? Well… what if they don’t? I find that there will be those who don’t agree with you. All that means is that you are actually articulating something out loud. But you will also find others who are more in line with your way of thinking than you thought. You will most likely find someone who loves your creations/perspective.

 

3. God refreshes and revives along the way

 

As I am true to myself and the path God has placed before me [the life I was made to live], our conversation [mine and his] about that path is authentic. I find that I need him more as the path winds and turns. This path is uncharted. And there’s no one else on it.

I’m led by God. I’m truly able to know him as the good shepherd. I don’t need to be led by another when I already know the direction or the outcome. I need a guide when I only know the next step… and then the next step after that.

Through the process of walking the path in front of me, God really does refresh my inner being, my heart. How cool to be able to know him in such a way that daily, we have interaction about real experience [reviewing financials, raising children, completing projects, engaging people, navigating marriage, hiking in nature, walking downtown]. He is with us and desires to guide us on our path that he intended for us. We will find life there. We will find him there.

 

And remember, this life [your path] is a beautiful adventure

As I mentioned at first, when I stand before God at the end of my life, I will not be measured by what others expected of me, I will be measured only by what He asked if me. But what he asks of me so aligns with who he created me to be. This is not a bleak existence. This is a beautiful adventure.

Any thoughts?

I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments section. These 3 thoughts are by no means all encompassing. What makes up your 3?

Cheers,
Phil Rice

 

find me social —Instagram —Twitter —Facebook —Soundcloud

find me here too —philrice.blog —Practical Spirituality —Ember

 

On Experiencing God — Matthew 25 [a practical, biblical study of scripture]

Excerpt from Devotional Sessions | Practical Spirituality

…at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ (Matthew 25:1-13, prompted from Devotional Sessions – Phil Rice).

Take a moment, steal away to a quiet spot. Now, whether behind closed doors or safely tucked away into the music of your earbuds, take a few deep breaths. Notice how you feel. Am I tired/awake? Is this room too warm/cold? Does my heart feel settled or am I anxious? Be present with yourself and invite God into your space.

Read though our passage several times. Readiness. The passage says that the virgins who were ready went into the wedding with the bridegroom. Take some time and ask Holy Spirit, Am I ready? Spirit, what does readiness look like?

The wise virgins in the story were the ones who had enough oil to last the night. Holy Spirit, what does the oil symbolize in Jesus’ story? How do I acquire it? How do I hold on to it? Thank you Holy Spirit for helping keep my heart ready for Jesus.

My personal engagement with this session

I so love this passage! When I ask Holy Spirit to deepen my understanding of the oil that Jesus is talking about in this story I can just feel my heart opening up to know Jesus more deeply. For me the oil is the substance that carries my longing for God both now and in the life to come. It’s the catalyst of connection between me and God — manifest in joy, desire for him, expectancy for his relational presence [experiential presence].

I use this story as an anchor when I’m tired or distracted. When I need to refocus my heart. I want to be one who continually knows him more. Not in large hyped moments or events, but in slow and steady ways over the course of a lifetime.

An added note from Phil Rice

I hope you’ve benefited from this excerpt from Devotional Sessions | Practical Spirituality. Share this session with anyone you think would be impacted and don’t hesitate to leave questions or comments for our mutual benefit of continued conversation.

Thanks for journeying alongside,
Phil Rice

 

find me social —Instagram —Twitter —Facebook —Soundcloud

find me here too —philrice.blogPractical Spirituality —Ember

Church. Do I fit the model? more than organization — Phil Rice

Is the conversation really about organization?

Take away our buildings and our branding, our programs and our structures, our worship bands and our sermons, until all that is left is Jesus and his people and… I believe that we would still have all the necessary components for church (tweet, Phil Rice).

People continue to ask why I’m not part of the local church, and in the asking is precisely why. We have lost a sense of church beyond organization and branding. I have not left the local church (tweet, Phil Rice).

These are a few thoughts that have sparked some passionate and productive conversation about the church gathered. I thought I would take a moment to add to that conversation. I would just like to say at the onset, thank you to everyone who has already vulnerably shared their thoughts and perspective on the subject. So let’s deepen the convo… yeah?

A traditional picture of church

When we begin to talk about church, for many of us [especially those of us who have grown up in midwest America], a very specific picture comes to mind:

We are greeted at the door or foyer [fancy word for entryway] and are ushered into a [hopefully] friendly and warm environment of people mingling and catching up on a week’s worth of highlights. Typically what follows includes a time of corporate worship, where we join the gathered assembly singing songs to God, led by an organist, a rock band, or something in-between. We are welcomed by a man or woman of the community who stands up at the front of the group to communicate the happenings of the larger community and invites us to pray for specific needs there in.

We are then invited to participate in donating financially to the community by the passing of a plate or basket. A leader of the community will then stand and share with us, his or her thoughts on a particular passage of scripture, value, or vision for the community. Usually, a song is played at the end of our time together, giving us a chance to reflect on or internalize what was communicated. Then we head back out to mingle for a few more minutes, grab a cup of coffee from the coffee pot [or espresso machine, or perhaps pour over bar?], pick up our kids in a different area of the building where they have gotten to have their own time together. And finally, we head home or to lunch or to wherever we go.

And we love it

Whether you’ve attended a gathering like this or not, you’ve been exposed to pieces and bits of such a gathering. Both the symphony and the rock concert give participants a place to lose themselves in music, lyric, sound. The CEO of a company will regularly gather the team in-order to communicate a value or practice. Every year United Way invites entire cities to donate finances as a means to help those in need.

And we love all these things! And rightly so!  There is purpose and intention behind them.

We love it… Sometimes

There are also times where the music doesn’t quite hit us in deep places — a symphony goer that finds themselves at the rock concert, a CEO or manager has too many meetings [or not enough?], too regularly, and of course… if someone is asking us to donate to something that we don’t have a value for, we may give once, or twice… but if they knock on our door for the 7th week in a row, I imagine we will [very politely] communicate that this will be our final donation to the cause.

A different way forward [just a few Phil Rice thoughts]?

There are many communities or individuals that my church example and say, ‘Yeah, that sounds about right [with a few adjustments here and there].’ And, you know? Many people fit right into this world and need not look elsewhere.

Some might even say, ‘Well, our church is different, because we do ABC instead of XYZ.’ Or, ‘Phil, your description of church was about as vanilla as it gets and I’m offended by how you portray it. Our weekly meeting is way more exciting/intimate/deep/rich/provoking than that!’ And that’s totally fine! You can be offended at me. But the fact that you relate to my description in any way, communicates that there are several key rhythms that most of the church prescribes to, yeah?

Something I’ve observed is that some people don’t fit. I’m not talking about not fitting in one church [read “organized church gathering”] over another… I’m saying… they’ve tried them all and they don’t fit the model. And that’s okay too.

What happens if I don’t fit the model?

Often, those who don’t fit the traditional structure of church are encouraged to:

  1. Look into overseas missions — what nation do you have a heart for? let’s send you!
  2. Attend a ministry school — let’s hone your gifts and really let you go for it…
  3. Lead a small group — I love your passion, I want you to reproduce that in others…

There is nothing wrong with shaking things up a little! These are good options. And they are perfect for some! But… they are not for everyone and I think it’s important to add more dimension to the conversation.

What if we gather around the problem we’re solving for?

As disciples of Jesus, there are so many areas of society in which we belong. We have so many diverse opportunities to bring our perspective and our light into our world.

If this is really true, then why would we think that we must all gather the in the same way? 

Some additional thoughts in the following articles
-> Not At Church — Phil Rice
-> What Is Spiritual Authority? Am I Under It? — Phil Rice

I will be measured only by what He asked of me

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I will not be measured by what others expected of me, I will be measured only by what He asked if me.

His path for me is what determines the rhythms and patterns of my life. If traditional patterns and structures hinder my ability to walk the path that He has put before me, then it is of the most timely importance that I drop them and begin to ask, “How then shall I live?”

The same goes for my spiritual family and for yours. His path for us [insert your ‘us’] determines the rhythms and patterns of our life together. And if any of the patterns or structures hinder our ability to walk the path He has set before us, then it is of most timely importance that we move out from them in pursuit of the question, “Jesus, since this is the path you have set before our family, how then shall we live?”

Any thoughts?

I’d love to continue the conversation in the comments section. Please feel free to share how my process hits you personally. As I said, this isn’t about a right and wrong way to gather. So let’s be honoring and respectful of the perspectives of others as we do so. Let’s glean from one another and better our perspective.

Cheers,
Phil Rice

 

find me social —Instagram —Twitter —Facebook —Soundcloud

find me here too —philrice.blog —Practical Spirituality —Ember

On Experiencing God — Revelation 5:9 [a practical, biblical study of scripture]

Excerpt from Devotional Sessions | Practical Spirituality

You [Jesus] are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation… (Revelation 5:9, prompted from Devotional Sessions – Phil Rice).

Jesus, you are worthy to complete the things that you have set out to do from before the beginning of time. You are worthy because you gave up your own life on our behalf and you reconciled us to yourself through your sacrifice.

Take a moment and ask God to give you greater understanding of himself, the one who has saved us. Ask him to give you greater understanding of himself, the one who is completely worthy to complete that which he set out to accomplish.

Jesus, I want to experience you as savior. My desire is to experience you as the one who is worthy of the course you have set in motion. I am not offended by your actions. You are worthy of all you set out to accomplish. I am fully yours God.

 

My personal engagement with this session

As I join in with the heavenly scene, communicating the worthiness of Jesus because of what he has done, I lay down my right to be offended. I am laying down my right to disagree with how he is accomplishing all he has set out to accomplish. When I say, Jesus, you are worthy to complete that which you set out to complete, I am also saying that, whether or not I understand your ways, I am with you, I follow you, I belong to you.

When I align myself with the truth of his work, I experience him as my salvation. This does not mean that I blindly follow that which I do not understand. It means that as I journey with God, I meekly ask for understanding regarding that which I do not understand. It means that I seek to know his ways and to experience him as the one who is worthy.

 

An added note from Phil Rice

I hope you’ve benefited from this excerpt from Devotional Sessions | Practical Spirituality. Share this session with anyone you think would be impacted and don’t hesitate to leave questions or comments for our mutual benefit of continued conversation.

Thanks for journeying alongside,
Phil Rice

 

find me social —Instagram —Twitter —Facebook —Soundcloud

find me here too —philrice.blogPractical Spirituality —Ember

My 3 Rhythms for Personal Retreat | Phil Rice

My [Phil Rice] Rhythms of Retreat

I had a conversation with a friend recently that led me to write out my own personal rhythms of retreat. This being the beginning of a new year, I thought this would afford us the opportunity for meaningful conversation.

I categorize my rhythms of retreat into 3 parts — daily, weekly, yearly. These rhythms have been crafted over a number of years and are always changing to meet the needs of a given season of time. I’ve also included some assessment tools that I gleaned from Tim Ferriss [found in The 4 Hour Workweek] that I have found exceedingly helpful.

Why are Rhythms of Retreat important to Practical Spirituality?

This is probably no shocker to anyone who has journeyed with me for any length of time. But I believe that our personal rhythms of rest and recovery [retreat] directly impact practical spirituality and the overarching momentum we bring to our life — mentally, physically, and of course… spiritually.

So here we go!

 

Rhythms of Retreat  Individual Assessment

Daily Rhythms – What daily rhythm(s) will brings me joy [renewal] in this season?

  • Must bring energy/inspiration/encouragement/clarity
  • Must be easily added to schedule
  • Examples: early morning with coffee, morning run, reading poetry, meditation, morning/evening walk
  • Current [Phil Rice] Rhythms include — morning rhythm of hot lemon water, Wendell Berry poetry, and some silent space to commune with God

Weekly Rhythms – What weekly rhythm will bring me joy [renewal] in this season?

  • Must bring energy/inspiration/encouragement/clarity
  • Must be consistent
  • Examples: extra early time [or extra late time] for self care – extended reading, doing a project, working in the garage, extended drive, extended time of meditation, extended time alone with God – if you’re an extrovert, just add a few people to these experiences 😉
  • Current [Phil Rice] Rhythms include — Monday evening yoga class with friends

Quarterly [Yearly] Rhythms – How should I retreat in this season?

  • Create quarterly [yearly] rhythms of retreat.
  • These can be just a single day at the coffee shop or a 3-4 day trip to more beautiful scenery [or even at a local airbnb].
  • Fill this space with that which things that bring you joy[renewal], along with time to plan for the coming quarter.
  • Current [Phil Rice] Rhythms include — a couple day retreat filled with reading [like, major kindle binge reading… stack em up!], access to a hot tub [if at all possible], yoga, extended quiet space for God to bring impression to my heart for the coming season
  • Note: Becky and I both try to get 1-2 of these in a year [alone… meaning… without spouse or kids]. Even if you can only swing 1x per year for each of you… totally worth it. Becky always comes back from these feeling refreshed and envisioned for not only herself, but also for our family. This rhythm for families is a total game changer. Dudes [men], it’s totally worth it. Give your wife a weekend to herself [at least] and watch it impact your family culture. You’re welcome.

 

Inventory for Quarterly [Yearly] Retreat

Observation

  1. Joy/Delight | What 20% of my responsibilities cause 80% of my overall level of joy/delight?
  2. Anxiety/Stress | What 20% of my responsibilities cause 80% of my overall level of anxiety/stress?

Practical Steps

  1. What practical ways over the next quarter [year] can I can increase my amount of joy/delight based on my answer to question 1? (activities, rhythms)
  1. What practical ways over the next quarter [year] can I mitigate the amount of stress based on my answer to question 2?
  1. Write a list over the course of your retreat of the craziest ideas [personal goals, life-giving thoughts, refreshing activities, wildest dreams] that come to mind. Toward the end of your retreat, or when you are back to normal life, take some time to determine which ideas [or some version of an idea] are plausible and exciting to think about executing in this coming season or over the coming year. Take these ideas add them to your calendar with actionable steps.

 

Continue the conversation

There it is! I hope some of these rhythms and tools are sparking your mind toward your own practical spirituality. As I mentioned, the specifics change from season to season. It’s the value for rhythms of retreat that stays constant.

I would love to hear your thoughts as you process this content and integrate them into your own experience. As always, drop a comment to continue the conversation. Happy 2018!

Cheers,
Phil Rice

 

find me social —Instagram —Twitter —Facebook —Soundcloud

find me here too —philrice.blogPractical Spirituality —Ember

On Experiencing God — Ezekiel 1:16 [a practical, devotional study of scripture]

Excerpt from Devotional Sessions | Practical Spirituality

…above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking (Ezekiel 1:26–28, prompted from Devotional Sessions – Phil Rice).

Ask God to give you the capacity to experience him as you read and meditate on this scene. Read through this passage several times. What stands out to you about this depiction of God? The beauty? The intensity?

Now, invite God to settle this reality in your heart. This was a real moment in Ezekiel’s experience. He saw God here. God is really in heaven, a physical place. He is seated on a physical throne, actual glory and color emanating from his very being. This is not a symbol. This is reality.

Meditate on this reality a little longer. How does it make you feel? Does it change the way you perceive God? Does it change the way you perceive your life? your experience?

Write down anything that comes to mind and thank God for this new experience of him.

 

My personal engagement with this session

I am impacted by the reality of this scene. The more completely I come to experience this scene as a real event in a real place at a real time, the more I am able to transcend beyond the worries of this life. In the moments I can grab onto the reality of God in this way, my focus moves from my circumstances toward his glory. In following Christ, I have become grafted into communion with this God, with this glorious being.

God, allow me to more fully experience you as you are and less as I’ve made you to be. Break into my understanding with greater perspective and knowing.

 

An added note from Phil Rice

I hope you’ve benefited from this excerpt from Devotional Sessions | Practical Spirituality. Share this session with anyone you think would be impacted and don’t hesitate to leave questions or comments for our mutual benefit of continued conversation.

Thanks for journeying alongside,
Phil Rice

 

find me social —Instagram —Twitter —Facebook —Soundcloud

find me here too —philrice.blogPractical Spirituality —Ember