connectedness over time – mediation

“Above all, it is not necessary that we should have any unexpected, extraordinary experiences in meditation. This can happen, but if it does not, it is not a sign that the meditation period has been useless … Above all, we must not allow them to keep us from adhering to our meditation period with great patience and fidelity. It is, therefore, not good for us to take too seriously the many untoward experiences we have with ourselves in meditation. It is here that our old vanity and our illicit claims upon God may creep in by a pious detour, as if it were our right to have nothing but elevating and fruitful experiences, and as if the discovery of our own inner poverty were quite below our dignity.” — life together, Bonhoeffer

Bonhoeffer offers such a helpful reality. When we spend time in meditation — making space for spirtiual connectedness with God through personal prayer, intercession, and scripture — our barometer does not have to be excitement or dynamism. Nor does it need to be immediate understanding.

In the same way we relate to another human being, with varying levels of engagement, understanding, and energy, our relating to God is much the same. While it takes continual engagement and commitment, the fruit of a relationship is seen over time. We understand one another over time. We grow in the knowledge of God over time. Each individual experience amounts to a much greater connectedness.

I can remember realizing this in practice for the first time. I immediately noticed the pressure to make this one count during time spent in prayer and in scripture begin to dissipate. And I was left with my desire for God and his desire for me — a beautiful foundation for relationship.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

excerpt from On Trusting God – Isaiah 26

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You (Isaiah 26).

Take several quiet moments to read over this passage. Let it impact you as you read. What does it mean for you, right now, in this time to keep your mind on God? He promises his perfect peace to us as we gaze upon him, as we trust him.

 

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Ordinary

The celebration of the ordinary was first introduced to me by content from John Smeltzer. I loved the conversation then and it continues to be meaningful to me now. As Becky and I have continued on the Heart Living journey with Sarah Bingaman, the topic of on being ordinary has resurfaced in helpful [yet challenging] ways.

To cope with shame or fear related to who we are or about what we need or how we hurt we tend to reject anything ordinary about us and strive for the ideal.
— Sarah Bingaman

While the process of rediscovering our ordinariness is costly and takes courage, ordinariness is a most incredible state of being. For me, to arrive at ordinariness is to arrive at my reality, the truth of me — no pretense, no act. It takes less energy to keep up being myself, as I truly am. And the moment we arrive at some understanding of our being ordinary, we have a new life filter. When we receive feedback or the external expectation of another person, before we manage it and decide how to apply it,  we get to process these things through the filter of being ordinary — our self-professed ordinariness.

When I come to realize that I am ordinary, I can more easily sort through expectations [of myself and others] keeping those that fit who I truly am and setting aside those that do not. An expectation of another human [or an expectation of myself] is not intrinsically wrong or bad, but if I begin to build the internal scaffolding of my life, first around that which is imposed upon me, then I am no longer being true to myself. And if I am not being true to myself, then I have nothing true to offer to another. Nor can I be authentically present with them.

Ordinary is a journey. It is not easy and it is not immediate. But I have found this road to bring such relief. When I give myself permission to be ordinary, I give myself permission to be weak. I give myself permission not to know everything I need to know to do everything I need to do. I give myself opportunity to know others and be known by them, as we seek to create and build and do, together. Slowly, over time, I begin to set aside the walls and shields I have learned in (false)self preservation. And I am received [or not] for who I am — an ordinary human among other ordinary humans.

Being ordinary enables me to relate more authentically with God — allowing him to refresh the inner places of my heart previously hidden from him and potentially unrealized by me. When I cannot be weak, then he cannot offer strength. When I cannot be afraid, then he cannot bring comfort. When I cannot be sad or feel pain, then he cannot be with me in my sorrow. When I cannot be ignorant, then I have given no room for his wisdom.

Embracing ordinariness does not mean embracing a lack of excellence or even giftedness. It is simply the confession of need. What a beautiful human commonality — need. We hurt, we experience loss, we have weakness. What a relief to be ordinary. And what a gift, the openness and togetherness that comes from needing one another.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

excerpt from On Trusting God – Deuteronomy 31

Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you (Deut 31).

Take a deep breath and meditate on this promise of the Lord. I am the one who goes with you. I will not leave you. I will not abandon you. This is reality.

Now, when you have a moment, allow yourself to reflect on one or two of the most challenging things currently impacting your life. Ask the Lord how he wants to be with you in the midst of these challenges. Write down anything that you sense the Lord bringing to mind [words, passage of scripture, memory, mental picture].

Set a reminder [phone/watch] to meditate on this reality several moments throughout your day – He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

The Worship Team

I’ve had the pleasure of working among musicians and worship teams in a variety of contexts. One of my favorite roles is actually as a coach rather than as a team member.

If someone comes to me asking for my help with their worship team, many times, in their minds, they have this idea of a new, dynamic worship leader, coming in, taking the captain’s wheel, setting a new course, and saving the day — creating a fresh and exciting worship environment. This is not the way I approach coaching worship teams.

When I sign on to work with a team, my primary objective isn’t actually to make them better — competence comes in time — but there’s another place I prefer to begin. I’ll gather this team of musical people and ask them who plays what. I’ll listen to them as they share their favorite bands and music styles and help navigate the right people into the right places. And, I’ll take a little time to observe the feel of their community. And then… my job is to affirm them. A worship team needs to hear that the sound they create together is meaningful to the Lord and that they are who their community needs. If a team is comprised of an acoustic guitar and a washboard, praise God. What a gift to a community of believers. If a team happens to be made up of professional musicians, fantastic. What a gift they are as well!

There’s a pressure in America, to always be the biggest and the best, often at the expense of authenticity. The worship team of the western Church is by no means shielded from this pressure.

The small rural church community doesn’t need to feel pressure to have the Nashville rock band — pull out the acoustic guitar and the banjo and let’s do this! And on the other hand, for the the Nashville rock band, playing in clubs six nights a week and dragging out of bed after a late Saturday night to worship Jesus with spiritual family on a Sunday morning, beautiful!

Communicating to a worship team that they have everything needed to lead their community in worship is one of my favorite moments. Sure, there are places we can all improve, there are wild musicians to reign in, there are quiet bedroom musicians to infuse with boldness, there are stray notes and wrong chords, and all kinds of other things. But, let’s make sure that we are starting with who we are and with what we have. And let’s commit to growing from that place.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

 

excerpt from On Trusting God – Isaiah 43

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God… (Isaiah 43).

Read through this passage several times in a quiet, undistracted space. Fear not — I have redeemed you — I have called you by name — You are mine — I will be with you — [waters] shall not overflow you — fire shall not burn you — I am the Lord your God. Allow the reality of each phrase to wash over you.

Allow yourself to visualize the most challenging thing in your life right now [repeat where necessary]. Thank God for these promises surrounding your specific hardship. Thank him for his command to fear not. Thank him for the promise that this hardship will not overtake you or destroy you. YOU ARE MINE. Thank him for this reality.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember

Let’s do what we’re best at — laying down the turnkey church

Thoughts continued from Organizational Turnkey and Church and Turnkey organization and the great American detox

In my previous post on the topic, I presented the thought that we, as local parts/expressions of Christ’s body, his Church, have an opportunity to focus on our strengths/identity and journey alongside others with other strengths — walking in dependent, functional unity [friendship].

Journeying more deeply into the question, what would it look like to do what we are best at?

What if we shared our best with other parts of Christ’s body in our city and region? What if the group that felt predominately called to mission, mobilized the majority of the missional endeavors and service to the city for the greater community of believers? What if the group with the biggest prophetic impulse shared their prayer gatherings with the larger body of Christ in the region? What if Young Life became our predominant youth ministry or Campus Crusade our citywide college ministry?

What if we came to one another with humilty, not only for input, perspective and prayer requests, but for a regular seat at one anothers table.

This is not about outsourcing.

If Christ did not call us — all of us — his [one] body, then we could call this outsourcing. But we are his body. His one body. This is not outsourcing. This is walking in dependent, functional unity — friendship and connectedness.

 

Phil Rice — philrice.blog
Executive Director of Ember