Creative Living in a Consumer World (Final – Week 6)

Field Guide Home Study

Creative Living in a Consumer World

“When I Look Up”

Have you ever gone to a restaurant, looked over at another table, and saw the occupants of that table each on their phones? It could beg the question: why go out for a family dinner anyway if we aren’t going to pay attention to one another? Maybe we don’t know the whole story there and it would not be fair to assume what it is, but it is good to think and talk about. In today’s society, the blessings of technological connectedness are many as they allow us to communicate more frequently and in larger quantities than ever before. IMG_1649In many ways, technology enables our staff at Belmont to keep us all connected! Even this Field Guide would be much more difficult to produce if we did not have the blessing of blogging!

Still yet, too much of anything can produce problems. Our phones can become our lords as we find ourselves more curious about or stressed over what is on them than the relationship(s) in front of us. Even on our days of sabbath, we may break sabbath to check our work email. This is acceptable given the expectations of the culture of high productivity that many of us operate within. But what are we missing when we are married to our phones? What emotions of pain or elation in our spouse or best friend or child do we miss when we quickly interact and then get back to our phones? What moments do we miss while we get away to take a call? Do our phones replace the time we could be spending in silence or prayer? It is good to think about these things and step back to observe our rhythms of technological use as we try to live creatively in this consumerist world.

Scripture Readings: Luke 19:1-6

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through town. A man there named Zacchaeus, a ruler among tax collectors, was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but, being a short man, he couldn’t because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When Jesus came to that spot, he looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down at once. I must stay in your home today.” So Zacchaeus came down at once, happy to welcome Jesus.

Luke 21:1-2: Looking up, Jesus saw rich people throwing their gifts into the collection box for the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow throw in two small copper coins worth a penny.

Questions to Consider: 

+What does a rhythm of balance regarding technology look like in your life? How is technology a blessing to you? How is it a hinderance?

+What boundaries do you have around leaving work at work? What boundaries do you need to create or edit?

Spiritual Practices:

+Center this thought in prayer, and post it on the fridge, phone or mirror:*

We worship the God who inhabits our world and indwells our lives.

We need not look up to find God, we need only to look around: within ourselves, beyond ourselves, into the eyes of another.

We need not listen for a distant thunder to find God, we need only listen to the music of life, the words of children, the questions of the curious, the rhythm of a heartbeat.

We worship the God who inhabits our world and who indwells our lives.

~ posted on the Presbyterian Church USA website. https://www.pcusa.org/site_media/media/uploads/peacemaking/pdf/mlk-resources.pdf

+Consider a “technology fast” wherein turn off the gadgets for a designated amount of time. Maybe you can only afford to do this for 30 minutes or maybe you have a day planned with your friends and family and you can commit to turning off your gadgets for that length of time. Whatever the length of time, reflect that evening on your experience. Did it stress you out to not be near your phone, or was it refreshing, or both?

+ Continue this week to make a space for solitude, away from your email and phone. Sit in silence and center on a word about God. For example, center your thoughts and prayer around the word “faithful” or another word that is meaningful to you- see what comes up when you do this.

Prayer for the Week:

God, we admit that there are times when we act wrongly, concentrating on the ‘bottom line’ and our survival, building up our own resources, and exercising inappropriate power.

Forgive us of putting our own comfort first, when the church becomes the center of our world and we fail to see beyond its walls.

Forgive us, O God, if our eyes have been so fixed on priorities of our own making, that we have failed to look for Jesus in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, those in prison and those awaiting the death penalty.

Forgive us, O God, of all the times we fail to touch people’s lives with acts of loving and caring, justice and mercy. Make our way, O God. We want to follow You.

*Adapted from a prayer written by Moira Laidlaw, posted on her Liturgies Online website.

 

 

Creative Living in a Consumer World (Week 5)

***Happy Halloween! May your day be filled with good memories of all the people who have come in and out of this season of your life!***

Field Guide Home Study: Week 5

Creative Living in a Consumer World

Sabbath 

Mercy, life can be busy, can’t it? There are so many good things to be a part of… so many places that we can put feet to our faith and be love in this world. Thanks be to God for the chance to learn to make room for others, to step back away from the power and control in a situation and share it instead. May we not tire in the work of love, or making space for others to be their best selves!

Still yet, busyness can really get to be a hum-dinger! The perpetual to-do list can often times be relentless. Sometimes the busyness of our lives can also hold part of our identity. If the busyness dicates some of our worth, then staying busy is necessary for us to feel important. IMG_5751

In our fast-paced, minute-to-win-it culture, the idea of longing for something can be a bit foreign. Everything has got to happen now. Pronto! We don’t long for things nearly as much because, well… we can have them right now. We speed up acquiring possessions. We speed up worship services. We speed up conversations. And by doing so, we can forget what it means to yearn… to long… to ache. Something that is surely coming but is not here yet.

It is odd to have to actually plan to slow down, to set a date on the calendar in which you block out time to stop and turn off the gizmos and gadgets. To be quiet. To just be. But without this time, we, as creatures of busyness, become unsettled. Where is the space to reflect, pray, and sit to listen to where God is leading our spirits? Where is a contemplative time which is required for us to arrive at thoughts that will be necessary for our future?

Taking a sabbath/ resting requires us to slow down, to stop: stop consuming, stop talking, stop worrying, stop making idols, stop running around… a time to stop. This, in all senses of the phrase, is an act of resistance.

Sabbath is resistance from a culture that attaches worth to productivity.

Scripture Readings: Genesis 1:14-15 (CEB Bible)

14 God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night. They will mark events, sacred seasons, days, and years. 15 They will be lights in the dome of the sky to shine on the earth.” And that’s what happened.

Genesis 2:1-3

The heavens and the earth and all who live in them were completed. 2 On the sixth  day God completed all the work that God had done, and on the seventh day God rested from all the work that God had done. 3 God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all the work of creation.

Luke 22:39

Jesus left and made his way to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom, and the disciples followed him.

Questions to Consider: 

+As you read this, what tasks are on your mind to get done? How can you slow your mind and let it settle into a brief respite?

+Which persons in your life can you rest with?

+Will the world keep turning if you do not complete your to-do list?

+What are you trying to prove or who are you trying to prove yourself to?

Spiritual Practices:

+Center this thought in prayer, and post it on the fridge, phone or mirror:*

O God, it is hard for me to let go most times,

the squeeze I exert harms me and harms others.

So, God, loosen my grip on the grudges I am holding,

that I may risk the vulnerability of forgiveness.

God, loosen my grip on holding things which just aren’t mine to hold any longer,

that I may take up what is mine to hold.

God, loosen my grip on the fears that paralyze me,

that I may find liberation.

God, loosen my grip from the shame I hold deep down,

that I may know that I am not a mistake, but beloved.

God, loosen my grip from crippling anxiety,

that I may breathe deeply of Your comfort.

God open my eyes to this wild and wondrous world.

*Adapted from “Loosen My Grip” within “Guerrillas of Grace: Prayers for the Battle” by Ted Loder

+Consider planning a day this week where you engage in morning lauds (praise) and evening vespers (prayer). As the days shorten and the darkness takes up more space, create time in your day to rest from the to-do list, to reflect and remember you are and what your calling is. Are you doing that which makes you come alive and working to create space for others to do the same?

+ Make space for solitude this week. Community is wonderful, beautiful, and needed for our spirits. But balance it this week with intentionally being alone with no other task than just to sit, be still, and see what comes along.

Prayer for the Week:*

O God, who is greater than the most powerful forces in this world,

enable us to be still and know that You are God.

O God who answers out of the whirlwind of everyday life,

breathe in us Your Holy Spirit to strengthen, comfort, and guide us in the midst of the storm.

O still, small voice, speak to us this hour

that we might become makers of Your peace

in our homes, in our communities, in our world.

We pray all this in the name of the One who calmed the raging sea. Amen.

*Adapted from a post on My Redeemer Lives website

 

 

Creative Living in a Consumer World (Week 4)

Field Guide Home Study: Week 4

Creative Living in a Consumer World

Vision and Division 

We are well on our way in a four week journey of Creative Living in a Consumer World. It is a joy to be able to study and practice together ways to live alternatively to the consumerist norms. We get to practice loving our bodies instead of comparing them to popular media’s perception of what we “should” look like. We get to practice creating rather than consuming so much. We get to practice service to others rather than trying to get ahead of them. We get to learn what it means to have grace for each other because we act imperfectly and let one another down. We get to practice forgiveness rather than spending so much energy holding bitterness and resentment. We get to practice what it means to have vision even within division.

As a congregation who is dedicated to an inclusive gospel which has no barriers for persons who identify as LGBTQIA+ but instead celebrates these beautiful identities, we find ourselves at odds with some fellow United Methodists. How, in this uncomfortable space, are we to continue to have a vision within division? How do we work towards a beloved community who mutually belongs to one another, while we are in a divisive denominational struggle? Where do we put our hope?

Scripture Readings: Romans 14:1-5, 10, 16-19 (CEB Bible)

Welcome the person who is weak in faith—but not in order to argue about differences of opinion. One person believes in eating everything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Those who eat must not look down on the ones who don’t, and the ones who don’t eat must not judge the ones who do, because God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servants? They stand or fall before their own Lord (and they will stand, because the Lord has the power to make them stand). One person considers some days to be more sacred than others, while another person considers all days to be the same. Each person must have their own convictions. But why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you look down on your brother or sister? We all will stand in front of the judgment seat of God. And don’t let something you consider to be good be criticized as wrong. God’s kingdom isn’t about eating food and drinking but about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Christ this way pleases God and gets human approval. So let’s strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up.

Spiritual Practices

+Center this thought in prayer, and post it on the fridge, phone or mirror:

We will not find justice in our apathy;
we will not find peace by our arguing;
we will not find love in being controlled by fear.
But, we will find You in the brokenness of the Bread;
we will find you in the gift of the Cup;
we will find you when we squeeze closer together,
making room at the Table for all your people.
O God of Community, may we find You. Amen

+Consider writing a prayer for someone you don’t particularly like. It may be easier to start with someone you don’t really care for and then work your way up to writing a prayer for someone that has hurt you deeply.

+Breath Prayer: choose one word/phrase to inhale and one word/ phrase to exhale. For example: inhale: “I am enough”/ exhale: “So, I can rest” Or, inhale: “I am forgiven”/ exhale: “I must forgive”

Prayer for the Week:

O God, bless those who make peace,
who bring no other hope but to see us belong to one another.

Bless those who, when we run out of room at the table, make a bigger table.

Bless those who welcome their enemy to the Table because they know the Table is not theirs to control.

Bless those who value humans over death- dealing systems.

Bless those who make peace,

Strengthen them, give them salve for their tired hands, rest for sore backs, and hope in their hearts.

Guard them from despair, as they draw the circle wide.

Bless those who make peace, O God. Amen.

 

Creative Living in a Consumer World (Week 2)

Creative Living in a Consumer World (Week 2)

New Creations

 If you missed week one, check it out here!

We have heard the Good news:

God loves us. We have deep, sacred worth. We have been named “beloved.”

Sometimes these truths are very hard to believe. In her book, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott writes: “You have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t. You take the action, and the insight follows: You don’t think your way into becoming yourself.”1 Sometimes in order to come to believing we are beloved, we just have to start living into it. The “living into” part takes some faithfulness because it isn’t easy, but eventually, it becomes more of a rhythm. Over and over and over and over, we live as new creations, beloved of God.

So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

If we are new creations in Christ, then we cannot hoard God’s love, grace or forgiveness; we are compelled to be conduits of divine love in the world. We have a call to create rather than consume, to slow and see beauty rather than speed by it, and to be persons who choose to forgive those who have harmed us because we know that holding onto the pain becomes toxic bitterness.

The creative process of becoming a new creation never ends. The old stuff is always passing away because we have so many complex layers as humans; we are always being transformed, sanctified. Thanks be to God for this wonderful gift and may it be so as we live as new creations of Christ!

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Scripture Readings: (CEB Bible)

2 Corinthians 5:16-21

17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! 18 All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. Christ has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.

20 So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, “Be reconciled to God!” 21 God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through Christ we could become the righteousness of God. So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know Christ now.

Genesis 1:1-5 & 31

When God began to create the heavens and the earth— 2 the earth was without shape or form, it was dark over the deep sea, and God’s wind swept over the waters— 3 God said, “Let there be light.” And so light appeared. 4 God saw how good the light was. God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God named the light Day and the darkness Night.

There was evening and there was morning: the first day.

31 God saw everything God had made: it was supremely good. There was evening and there was morning: the sixth day.

Questions to Consider:

  • What does it mean to live as a new creation? Where do you need reconciliation in your own life? Who do you need to seek reconciliation with? What shame is keeping you from doing this? Who might help with this and what simple steps might it take?
  • What burden do you hold that is no longer yours to hold? What are you counting against people. Is that fair? Do you know enough to make that call?
  • In the most literal and practical way, what does your life look like this week as a new creation?
  • On a larger level, what is your life mission as a new creation in Christ?  What do you long to create with your life? What is it that makes you come alive?
  • If we are new creations because of God’s forgiveness and grace, then how are you extending forgiveness and grace into the world that others may come to know it?

Spiritual Practices:

+Center this thought in prayer, and post it on the fridge, phone or mirror:

The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

Reconciled and given the ministry of reconciliation,

We go as ambassadors of reconciliation who represent Christ to ourselves, each other, and our world.

+At the dinner table with your family or with a friend, share a story about a way in which you have grown emotionally or spiritually. For example, how has your life story changed in the last 10 years? What, in you, is new?

+As autumn slowly comes, take a walk outside and notice the old leaves passing away. Consider the seasonality of life and wonder how living seasonally can help you let go of the things which are no longer yours to hold.

+Consider what heavy burdens you have. Write it/them on a sheet of paper. Center yourself in prayer as you work to give those to God. You may consider having a fire and burning these pieces of paper as a symbolic way of releasing these burdens (Safety first!).

+As new creations, we are still responsible for the harm that we have done and part of being a new creation is seeking reconciliation. What reconciliation do you need to seek this week? Maybe it is reconciliation with God, or with yourself, or with another human being?

Prayer for the Week:

Reconciling Christ, bless my efforts to bring about reconciliation.

Give me the strength to persevere without counting the hurts,

and to find within myself the capacity to keep on loving.

Give me the grace to be able to stand in the middle of situations,

and to be a conduit for the deep listening

which can lead to healing and forgiveness.

Help me to conduct myself with dignity,

giving and expecting respect, moving from prayer to action,

and from action back again into prayer.

Grant that I may be so grounded in Your love,

that my security is not threatened if You show me a

better way to live as a new creation.

Reconciling Christ, bless me and bless all who engage

in the sacred work of envisioning new wholeness,

and bringing people and nations together.  Amen.2

Footnote citations:

1. Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Anchor Publishing, 1995), pg. 9.

2. Adapted from a prayer written by Ann Siddall, in Lent to Easter liturgies: Year C. Posted on the website of the Stillpoint Spirituality Centre.  http://stillpoint.unitingchurchsa.org.au/