At Furnace Brook we are developing a "Rule of Life" to help us grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. For more information on developing your personal rule of life (and to download a helpful pdf with a printable form to fill out) go to this website from our friends at Bridgetown Church.
This past Sunday we talked about the importance of "abiding" in Jesus and developing those practices that would help us to abide. And Joel rattled off a list of possible practices that you might consider trying out as part of your rule of life, whether on a daily, weekly, monthly, or annual basis.
Here they are in greater detail:
1. Silence. Set a time for 2 minutes or five minutes are go by the calendar (do 12 minutes on the 12th.) Eliminate distractions. Put your phone away. Pray a simple prayer ("Speak Lord, your servant is listening", for instance) then practice a posture of openness to the Spirit until your timer goes off.
2. Sabbath. Be in church on Sunday. Keep the Sabbath holy by treating it differently from other days. Exult in leisure. Once a month or so consider taking an extended Sabbath.
3. Practice good digital fitness. Set a limit on your screen time. Do some digital fasting. Put your phone away at 8:00pm.
4. Scripture. Find ways to get scripture content that work for you in your situation. Do you want to follow a rigorous reading plan that gets you through the whole Bible in a year? Do that. Do you want to listen to five minutes of scripture from your phone in the morning? Do that. Do you want to spend a week memorizing one verse? Do that.
5. Edifying material. There are books to read, podcasts to listen to, sermons to watch on YouTube. Edification seldom happens by accident.
6. Use the Daily Examen.
7. Use Wesley's Questions for Self Examination.
8. Employ the Daily Office.
9. Practice intentional gratitude. Consider doing something like building a gratitude cairn where every rock you place on the cairn represents a thing you are grateful for.
What are some other practices that are part of your rule of life or that you are considering adopting to help you abide in the Lord?
I recently bought a set of dining room chairs at a yard sale, and, honestly, it may have been a mistake. They were already old and well used way back when they went into the storage unit from which they were dragged for this sale. They didn’t cost much at all, but I’m not sure if they were really worth even the little I paid for them. They’re made of walnut and walnut veneer, and the fabric upholstery on the seats is very worn and dated. They’re kind of mid century modern, kind of art deco. Many of the joints are loose, some of the veneer is missing, and all of it will have to be refinished. If we had already had dining room chairs I probably would not even have looked at these.
But I kind of love them. In fact, the more time I spend on them with their past and potential coming into focus, the more I love them . . . and the more I hate the condition they’re in.
Shalom, the Hebrew word for “peace,” is freighted with a lot of meaning. It means, at least in part, the proper, complete, perfect ordering of things. You see a set of faded and decrepit chairs on a lawn as an affront to Shalom when you’re shown a picture of the same chairs in their original condition being used by a family at table eating a nourishing meal. That’s when your allegiance to Shalom prompts you to either concede that the chairs are a lost cause and toss them in the fire, or to take up your tools and do what you can to bring the crumbling reality of the chairs in front of you back to what they had been designed to be. My commitment to Shalom and my love for these chairs produces an inescapable tension that can only be resolved through either violence or redemptive work.
And so it is with Vermont. I’m very happy here in the Green Mountain State, but I would be a lot happier if I had less of an appreciation for Shalom. I kind of wish I was less aware of what a rightly ordered Vermont would look like, or of all the ways that Vermont falls short of that right ordering. But as it is my commitment to Shalom and my love of Vermont produces a tension I feel every day. And that tension demands to be resolved either violently or redemptively. And we will always choose redemption.
We choose redemption because it is the choice that Jesus made in regard to us. He looked at me and felt the tension I experienced when looking at my "new" set of chairs, except that these chairs are much closer to their ideal state now than I have ever been to mine. But Jesus, loving me, is committed to redeeming me and I will forever be grateful.
In that spirit, here are five things you can do to love the Vermont that ought to be while living in the Vermont that is.
The following is a guest post from Keith Piontek, our summer ministry intern. Pray for Keith as he starts his full time teaching position at West Rutland Elementary school this fall.
Recently I decided to go for a walk in a nearby place that will not be mentioned because I may have trespassed on someone’s property (oops!). However I did end up in a cornfield and, yes, I mean literally in a cornfield.
It started when I saw a path that led through a long grass field surrounded by forests. I thought of turning around and not taking the risk to carry on…but I couldn’t resist. I just had to see where it led. As I walked along a worn down, but not so maintained, path, I noticed a wall of what looked like poison sumac to my right. I felt the wet tall grass sliding against my bare legs. I also felt some weird soft thing hitting my arms randomly - I was confused at first, but figured it was my hanging backpack straps.
Then I got to the sea of corn…The little kid inside of me leaped in my heart. I heard him say “Let’s check it out. Let’s walk through a corn field just like in the movies!”
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to actually walk through a cornfield like in the movies where you see someone running away from something scary. Come to find out, number one, it’s not that easy to walk through a cornfield and, number two, looking at corn up close is like looking at an alien species being born.
The roots come out of the ground like the legs of a tree trunk that decided to attempt to stand up. Really, they just look like giant red and green spider legs sprawled out and bent into the shape of a teepee. When the corn husks start to grow they look like the hair on top of the head of a really hairy alien creature. As if it was just waiting to violently pop its head out and make some out of this world sound at you.
Then there’s the fact that you are surrounded. The corn is grown in organized rows but very closely together. I happened to find a random place where some stalks were missing and there was an opening wide enough to stand and take a step. Unlike the time I felt when I was on a New York City Subway at 7am, packed like a sardine, and pressed up against the people (strangers) around me (story for another time). Claustrophobic anyone?
Then as I stood there (and began writing this) a fly kept harassing me in my ear. Then my other ear…then my eye…you get it. Then on my way out I saw a beetle in one of the corn leaves and got one of those creepy crawly cold chills. So not only have I stepped foot into a somewhat scary, yet curious, new world but somehow in this new world the flies and bugs still have managed to be the bane of my existence!
Why do I share this? Who cares about my little story of exploration and curiosity mixed with fear and frustration? This experience is very much likened to my time working for the church this summer.
Like the path I saw that I could tell had been used for ATVs or a prior walking path in the past, but was overgrown and showed reason for caution, I too saw the same “path” laid before me when I was offered this position.
What “path” am I actually referring to? The path to reconnect with other people in the most real, authentic, and organic way. No agendas, plans, or “forcing anything”. Simply embracing the moments with others when given the opportunity fully and with hope. Hope of making some sort of a connection.
In life, there have been those who have walked through the wilderness enough to leave a trail for others to follow, yet not enough people for the trail to look well groomed and easy to tackle. Those people are courageous and they trusted that, despite the realities of the dangers ahead and temptation to allow the fear of those dangers to stop them, they took one step onto the path. They allowed their curiosity and hope to lead the way knowing deep down that there’s got to be something out there worth risking for. That the rewards along the way and at the end are worth it and far outweigh the trials and pain one cannot avoid.
Confession time! I have struggled with a deep sense of loneliness throughout my life. Though I have had many people love me and care about me, I have struggled to allow myself to fully embrace relationships deeper than surface level. I am an extrovert at heart, but my insecurities and fears have choked me, causing me to hide myself from others. I have found much pain and rejection in the past when I tried to be accepted. The rejection seemed to confirm my false beliefs about myself and self worth. I attempted to live “by the rules” of others’ expectations of me. I felt crippled in making decisions for fear of disappointing someone and what that meant about my value to them. So, to say that stepping out to make relationships with others came easy to me seemed to be true to outsiders looking in, but really was the farthest thing from the truth.
Like the path I walked on in my story though, I have found myself having entered into the sea of corn. Now I have left and have returned to a familiar place I know with a new sense of adventure! Also, with a new sense of confidence and excitement before God that I, too, am a trail-blazer! I simply had to trust Him to lead and protect me and hold onto the hope of His word - believing that anytime you obey God, it will be worth it.
This summer I planned and hosted events, formed relationships, preached, ministered to God and He to me. I began an adventure with God with the goal of becoming a spark that would hopefully ignite a fire. What I did not expect was for that fire to become coals in my heart that slowly smolder every day for Him rather than immediately spreading into the forest around me. I believe that, as some may have heard, God is not in the “efficiency business”. He does not care how we expect Him to do things…He just does as He pleases and we have to accept it whether we like it or not.
But friends…family…let me encourage you with this: God is in the business of loving, equipping, and empowering you to live a full, abundant, and impactful life! That is what I have found - one step, one day, and one relationship at a time. Slow but sure. Risky? Oh yeah, but with the guarantee that God cares about you AND is ALL POWERFUL and, therefore, able to bring about a prize that far exceeds any expectations you may have.
Quality relationships are hard to come by, but the truth is that anything that is worth our energy and time is costly. Anything that is quick and easy will just as quickly fail you. Let me ask you a question: Is the angst in your heart - that feeling that you know there is more…is that feeling beckoning you as it did me? Then I have only 3 words for you…DON’T IGNORE IT.
Many of us have found ways to suppress this angst in our souls, one way or the other. I certainly have found many! But I am done running away. I am done settling for something that leaves me dry and empty. I am ready and have had a taste of what my heart has been longing for and I’m not going to stop now!
If I can take one step at a time as I feel my heart beating out of my chest with anxiety and find that it truly was worth it, then so can you! I welcome you brother and sister - YOU BELONG with God, you belong in this church family…and my dear friend…you certainly belong with me! You are welcome anytime and will NEVER be rejected. And the beautiful thing is…I am not alone in this attitude toward you. Your church family awaits! Take a step, trusting God to see it through and see His goodness! It is not worth the weight of the pain of loneliness! But oh it feels so relieving to finally say “I’m home”, “I belong”, “I am loved”, and “I've found it!”.
Furnace Brook Wesleyan Church Blog