About jbrockway

Director of Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Trailer park wisdom

LENT_real_rest_FRONTPAGE
Luke 21:1-4

Prayer for the day:

Jesus, we lose perspective, and for this we ask forgiveness. Sometimes we choose ignorance, but more often we are just lazy. Help us to avoid the temptation of justifying our selfishness. Help us to be humble as we walk with you and with others

Question for reflection:

Reflect on a time when someone with less than you was more grateful than you. What did the situation help you to understand about the Gospel of Good News? What questions did the situation leave in your heart?

~ Becky Ullom-Naugle, Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lenten Devotional written by Duane Grady, pastor of Cedar Lake Church of the Brethren (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Duane’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

No time to be alone

LENT_real_rest_FRONTPAGELuke 22:39-46

Prayer for the day:

For our frailness and for our strength, which are so intertwined, we give you thanks, Great Comforter. Work through us to touch the lives of others, even when we are completely unaware of your movement. Help us to help each other, Lord.

Question for reflection:

Think of a time when someone unknowingly said just the thing you didn’t know you needed to hear. What did that feel like? Once you became more aware of the burden you were carrying/your own humanity, was Jesus present to you in that moment? What did that feel like?

~ Becky Ullom-Naugle, Director for Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Lenten Devotional written by Duane Grady, pastor of Cedar Lake Church of the Brethren (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats). Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Duane’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

 

Blogging Through Lent

 

Lent 2013 Cover

For ten years now Brethren Press has published a devotional for the seasons of Advent and Lent. Each of the devotionals have been written by a member of the Church of the Brethren and offer a true gift to the church as it journeys to the holy days of Christmas and Easter.

This year the Lenten devotional, The Practice of Paying Attention, has been written by Dana Cassell, Minister of Youth Formation at the Manassas Church of the Brethren. In the introduction Cassell remarks that “for us, Lent is an opportunity to practice paying attention to God’s very real presence in the world around us. It is an invitation to keep our eyes and our hearts open as we walk with

Jesus through his last weeks on earth. God is calling us: Wake up! Pay attention. You never know what you might be missing.”

In order to practice paying attention, Congregational Life Ministries is inviting the church expand the conversation. Rather than treating our devotions as a practice for our individual times of prayer, the hope is that those reading the devotional can reflect on the meaning of Lent and Easter together across the miles.

So, pick up your copy of The Practice of Paying Attention (http://www.brethrenpress.com/) and pray and reflect with the sisters and brothers of the church. The devotional is a available in print and electronic formats. Bookmark the blog in your web browser and check out the prayers and questions prepared each day by the staff of Congregational Life Ministries. Even more to the point, share your comments and reflections in the comment box for each day’s posting.

See you on the blog!

Setting the stage


 

 

Luke 1:1- 4

Question for Reflection:
Is there an event or story that profoundly captured your attention? How did you feel, what were your thoughts when you learned more about the occurrences that shaped that event or story? How has your life been impacted by the event or story?


Prayer for the day:

O God, the inspiration of such an incredible story. We are touched by so many stories.  May we be open to what the stories reveal to us and shape our life. In the name of the One who is the center of the story. Amen.

~ Stan Dueck, Director, Transforming Practices

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent Devotional written by Walt Wiltschek, campus pastor of Manchester University. (Available from Brethren Press in print and E-Book formats) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, Walt’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

What is Fasting?

As Lent nears we encounter a number of people taking on a fast- from giving up chocolate to not eating meat on Friday. This short reflection first appeared in the Congregational Life Ministries publication Basin and Towel. To subscribe download this form.

“‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’” Matthew 6:16-18 NRSv

It is interesting to encounter fasting in the Sermon on the Mount.  Right after Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for “our daily bread” in the Lord ’s Prayer (6:11) he shifts to talking about not eating it.  Yet, the connection is clear- Fasting, like prayer, is an assumed spiritual discipline that demands a particular mode of practice.  In more clear words, it’s what people of faith do and Jesus wants to make sure they do it right and for the right reasons.

So what is fasting?  In its most simple form, fasting is the act of going some time without food.  Earlier in the book of Matthew we read of Jesus taking 40 days to go without food (4:2). Now that is one long fast!  Fortunately for us, the expectation is not for such grand heroics on our part.  In fact, there are many types of fasts, all of which can be done in any length of time.  Some drink only juice for a few days, some may not eat during the daylight hours, and still others might fast from a particular thing like chocolate during lent.

But why fast?  There are two ways to approach the question, one by saying what it is and the other by describing what it’s not.  In the reading from Matthew 6 above, it’s clear what fasting is not: It is not about a show for others. It’s not meant to be manipulative or political in nature but rather assumes it is a spiritual matter between God and the faithful one.  In other words, fasting is not about drawing attention to yourself. Actually, as we see in the temptations of Jesus in chapter 4 we see that fasting is not about us at all- not our hunger, not our pride, and not our vanity.  In today’s terms, this means that fasting is not about out weight, not about our desire for great political outcomes, and not about drawing the attention of others to our beliefs or our bodies.

Yet, as a spiritual practice it is in some ways about you- you and the creator to be more specific.  Religious and non-religious persons alike speak of fasting as a way of getting our minds and bodies out a rut.  For the non-religious the time of intentional hunger allows the body to clean itself and gain a clearer mind.  But for the person of faith the reframing of the mind is about shifting ones attention to God.  Just like the temptations of Jesus following his time of fasting in Matthew 4, we start to ask questions of how we are and are not connected to God. How am I distracted from listening to God by everyday life?  How do I look for the extraordinary as a way to test God rather than see God’s care in the food that I eat?  Those questions asked in the place of eating a meal help us gain perspective on the state of our faith and our relationship to God and the world.

The short answer to this question though goes something like this: We fast from food or drink in order to reorient ourselves to God, and by looking first to God we change our relationship to the things of this world. What we do after the fast is the fruit of our spiritual discipline and our renewed relationship to God.

Praying the Psalms in Lent

Basin, Towel, and Bible for LentDietrich Bonhoeffer titled one of his books The Psalms: Prayerbook of the Bible. As part of his seminary experiment the students and teachers would pray the psalms together. Though it might seem innovative to some, the book of Psalms has been a hymn and prayer book for the people of God for centuries.

This approach to the book of Psalms stands in pretty stark contrast to our current ways of reading scripture. Rather than reading the Bible for themes, or ideas, or theological concepts, praying scripture teaches us to present the range of our experiences to God. Invariably, while praying these prayers, the reader will encounter emotions or images that say nothing to their current experience. This is not such a bad thing. The language and images of these old hymns refuse to leave us at the heights of praise or the depths of despair. As Don Sailers has said, the psalms speak of humanity at full stretch before God. That is to say, humanity stretched out between the postures of lament and of praise. Praying these ancient words lets us call out to God without reservation. At the same time, they offer words of comfort and challenge from the same God we invoke. In all, the psalms work on our inner life through spoken and read words, shaping us into more Christ like persons with each refrain.

For this season of Lent, I am not going to give something up. Instead, I am going to add something to my daily routine. For the forty days of Lent I will pray through the entire book of Psalms. So that means, six days a week from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday I will be praying at least four Psalms.

If you are new to this way of reading scripture, here is a short article from Christianity Today to get you started. To guide us through the season, a calendar has been posted on our website.

I invite you to join me in this practice. It really does not matter which translation you use, simply find a rendering of the psalms that leads you into prayer. There are many fine translations, some good paraphrases, and multitudes of musical settings.

Let’s take this time as a church to pray together, and not just in our own familiar words, but with the very words of scripture. Let’s let the prayer book of the Bible be our teacher this lent.

 

Star of Wonder

 Matthew 2:1-12

Prayer for the Day

Incarnate God, we often set our own plans for the journey. We think we know the best and most productive route, all the while looking to the path and not for your guiding star. So shine in our hearts and communities that we cannot help but see the next step towards your Christ. Assure our wearied minds that another route is possible, indeed life giving. Amen

Question
David W. Miller asks: “Perhaps, you like the wise men, are searching for something beyond yourself. What star is guiding you? Where will it lead?”

Joshua Brockway, Director Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent devotional written by David W. Miller. (Available from Brethren Press) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, David’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Who is this Servant?

 Isaiah 42:1-9

Prayer for the Day

Lord, whose power is seen in the servant, we are confronted everyday with those who seek power rather than share it, rule over others rather than empower them, and value ideology over relationship. Remind us in this season of Christmas that power and love are seen in a manager not an office, in the face of an infant not the face of a dollar bill. Stir in us the capacity to emulate the true leader, your servant, the incarnate Christ; for it is in his name that we pray, Amen

Question
David W. Miller notes that the image of the servant in Isaiah is both about Jesus and about us. As you read the verses again what parts of the Suffering Servant challenge your own actions, the ways you interact with others? What parts of you need to be lifted in prayer in order to be conformed to the image of Christ?

Joshua Brockway, Director Spiritual Life and Discipleship

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent devotional written by David W. Miller. (Available from Brethren Press) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, David’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Crowned with Glory

Psalm 8

Prayer for the Day

Precious God, you come to us in so many more ways than we acknowledge. Let us recognize you more fully in the world around us today. Like the Psalmist David, we want to celebrate your majesty with the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and creatures of the land. In addition to rainbows, you promise us hope and a future through the nourishment your earth gives us. Help us honor you by loving the earth and all that is within it.

Question
In his book Serve God Save the Planet, Matthew Sleeth reminds us that if we say we love God, we must love what God loves – which clearly includes the earth and all that is in it. Understanding God’s creation, including its beauty, dangers, and miracles, teaches us about God. Think of the phrase “O Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” as you experience the world around you today. Recognize the majesty of God’s name in the beauty of the shining sun or the swirling snow. Proclaim God’s majesty as you gaze upon the firey red of a poinsettia plant, the vastness of a plain, or the dance of a burning flame. How aware of God’s presence in nature are you able to be today?

Becky Ullom, Director Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent devotional written by David W. Miller. (Available from Brethren Press) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, David’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.

Sent into the World

John 17:6-19

Prayer for the Day

Holy Spirit, dwell with me. Dwell within me. As I make my way through a day with joys and challenges, remind me of your companionship and guidance. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, and may my life encourage others to seek life in you.

Question
The spirit of Teresa of Avila’s words is known to many of us through the song Teresa’s Prayer by Joseph Helfrich: “Christ be in my mind, and in my thinking. Christ be in my eyes, in everything I see. Christ be in my ears and in my hearing, Christ be in my mouth, in every word I speak. Christ be in my heart, and in my loving. Christ be in my life, each moment that I live.” What would it mean in your life for Christ to be in your mind, eyes, and mouth? How might your internal and external experience of life be different if you continually invited Christ into your reality?

Becky Ullom, Director Youth and Young Adult Ministries

Congregational Life Ministries of the Church of the Brethren is offering these simple prayers and questions in connection to this year’s Advent devotional written by David W. Miller. (Available from Brethren Press) Join us as we look and listen for the coming of the Word through the reading of scripture, David’s reflections, times of prayer, and conversations on this blog.