Fanning the Flame — Barbara R.’s Story

We all know that Fanning the Flame presents a new way of living, which, like any life-changing protocol takes time.  I believe that we, as team members, are already beginning to feel this change stirring within our lives as we seek God’s will through steady and heartfelt prayer.

We and God are in this together.  As team members we are opening up and becoming more honest and vulnerable as we share our prayer visions and seek to understand our God-given gifts.  A sense of trust has sprung up among us, as well as a sense of unity of purpose.  Individually we are growing and striving to be the people God wants us to be.

People make comments such as, “Sounds like a lot of work!” and “we’re not even sure what you are doing.”  Well, yes, it is a lot of work!  We’re committed to work for the Kingdom of God…an immeasurable response to the work He has done for us.  We’re learning to put our trust in Him as we evaluate the needs of the church and understand how He wants to see St. Paul’s grow.  Though we are a small group, we are in the process of figuring out how all members of the congregation can join into this effort to become one in Him.  We see a future where small groups like ours will also want to come together–to trust each other as their trust grows in Him.  I know in my heart that every member of our congregation desires a personal relationship with the Lord–why else would we bother to attend church?  Nothing in our life is as important, and if it takes the work of praying, reading the Word and sharing His love with others, then it is really not work at all…it is a gift and an opportunity from which no one should be excluded.

Please be unified with us in this opportunity and realize that the growth we see at St. Paul’s may not necessarily be in numbers, but in spirit.  I know you’ve heard this phrase:  “the family that prays together, stays together.”  Well, St. Paul’s is a family and we all want to stay together and grow together.  Please pray that the Flame of the Spirit will become contagious and that each and every member will be on fire in a new and life-changing way.

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Blogging is a Blessing

“I long to see you, that I might impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you–that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith,  both yours and mine.”  Romans 1:11-12

As I thought about this month’s theme, it occurred to me that the Lutheran Ladies blog has been quite a blessing in my life.  Each of us has God-given talents and spiritual gifts, and when we use them in a way that pleases Him, we feel His pleasure.  I never sit down to write a post with the feeling that it is a chore, or a burden.  I’m so thankful that God has given me an occupation in retirement that I enjoy, and that feels useful.

Writing for the blog has made me think deeply about each monthly theme, reading, studying and praying about it.  Often it helps me examine my own conscience and discover areas of my life that need improvement or attention.  It’s also interesting to hear how others think about these things, both authors and readers.  Certainly the blog has deepened my faith and understanding of God and His will for me.

Through our blogging together, I’ve developed closer relationships with the other Lutheran Ladies.  Although I knew them all before, and go to church with some of them( and went to church with others), in blogging we have shared both dreams and failures.  We’ve worked together to produce something none of us could have accomplished alone.  It has been my joy and my privilege to see each of them grow in their faith journey.

I hope and believe that this blog has been an encouragement to others, as this was our original vision.   The books we read, the quotes we love, the movies that inspire us, the songs that uplift us, the thoughts God places in our minds, and the emotions of our hearts, are all offered up to strengthen others.  As we open our lives to our readers, we are in turn blessed by the comments and kind words we receive back.  As Paul says in the quote above from Romans, we have been “mutually encouraged”.

So to all our authors and readers, today I am saying “Thank You!”  You have blessed my life in an amazing way.

Is this Spiritual Direction?

I found this quote which led me to wonder, “Is the Lutheran Ladies blog actually a form of spiritual direction?”  In sharing our experiences, insights, reading and more are we becoming to spiritual directors to our readers and to one another? I certainly think sharing my feelings in my posts has led me to confront my own sin, and the frequent lack of purity in my motives.  It makes me think and read deeply about each month’s theme. Hopefully,  this means it has led to some changes as well.  I would love to hear what others (authors and followers) have to say on this subject.

“When we speak with others about our experience in Christ, it sharpens our attentiveness to the voice and will of the Father. Sharing our stories helps us clarify the intentions of our hearts toward the fulfillment of his divine will. A small circle of friends also reminds us of the presence, power and protection of the Holy Spirit. Confiding in one another instills a sense of hope for the future as children who are dearly loved by their Father.”
Stephen A. Macchia, Crafting a Rule of Life: An Invitation to the Well-Ordered Way

Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen with Michael J. Christensen & Rebecca J. Laird–Book Review

Henri Nouwen was a Catholic priest, author and teacher.  Offering spiritual direction was a regular part of his life.  In this posthumous book, two of his students use notes from his course in spiritual direction as well as some of his unpublished writing to outline Nouwen’s thoughts on the spiritual life.  At the end of each chapter, you will find questions and exercises for journaling and reflection.

Spiritual Direction by [Nouwen, Henri J. M.]

Spiritual direction is full of questions:

  • Where do I begin?
  • Where have I been and where am I going?
  • What is prayer?
  • Who is God for me?

According to Nouwen, we must develop “ears to hear” God.  This is difficult because it requires leaving empty spaces in our lives so that God can come in.  That can be frightening and unsettling to most of us who are accustomed to filling every moment up with something “useful.”  Nouwen goes on to say:

“But even stronger than our fear of the empty space is our fear of actually hearing the voice of God!  We know that our God is a jealous God who knows there is no other cure for our restlessness and deafness but finding our home in God.  We know that God’s mercy is a severe mercy that does not coddle or spoil but cuts to the heart of where truth resides.  And although we are unsatisfied and unfulfilled, we are not so sure that we want to go in the direction God might call us to go…”

This book is a wonderful introduction to the idea of spiritual direction, and the exercises, suggestions and questions it offers are a good starting point for anyone interested in going deeper.

PS. You can purchase a Kindle edition from Amazon for only 1.99!

Out of the Depths — Book Review

Out of the Depths” is the autobiography of John Newton, author of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.”  Don’t pick this book up because you want to hear more about Newton as a hymnist — it’s just not there.  Instead, the book focuses on his spiritual journey.

Out of the Depths by [Newton, John]

Born to a devout mother who dies when he is seven, Newton strays from the faith.  As a young man he becomes willful, arrogant and disappointing to his father.  His life reads like some of the great stories of the Bible.  He is runs away like Jonah, is shipwrecked and beaten like Paul, and like the prodigal son finally comes home to God, his Father.  He experiences both wealth and want, becomes a sea captain, a slave trader, a servant (little better than a slave himself) and finally a pastor.

Here is what he had to say about his life:

“They (true believers) are as one body, animated by one spirit;  yet their experiences, formed upon these common principles, are far from uniform.   The Lord in His first call, and His following providential actions, regards the situation, temperament, and talents of each and the particular services or trials He has appointed for them.  All are tested at times yet some pass through the voyage of life much more smoothly than others.  ….We must not, therefore, make the experience of others in all respects, a rule to ourselves nor our own a rule to others.  ….My case has been extraordinary…it is to be expected that after such a wonderful, unhoped for deliverance as I had received, and after my eyes were somewhat enlightened to see things aright, I should immediately cleave to the Lord and His ways with purpose of heart and depend no more on mere flesh and blood.”

This book was a fairly easy read and I enjoyed it (the copy I had was revised and updated for modern readers).  Each of us, like Newton, has a faith journey and we should spend some time reflecting on it.  How has God led you to the place you’re at today?  I’d like to hear about that.

Fanning the Flame

A few days ago our congregation had a meeting with Mr. Joe Weatherly, a representative from Fanning the Flame, a ministry of church revival.  A hard question was asked:  do we want to be light and salt to the world, or do we simply want our church to continue?  To survive and thrive, we must focus on Christ and serving others, not on ourselves.  I realize this is a challenge.  It is a challenge for me.

Hard work will be involved in completing the revitalization process.  There will be workshops and retreats;  people will have to take on jobs and be committed and accountable.  However, in the end, we will understand our gifts and have a number of strategic plans for using them.

I sensed people were interested and I hope inspired (I was).  I was heartened by a good turn out of our members and by the questions they asked.  Are we ready to make this big commitment of time and money?  This week or next we’ll have further discussion and voting.  Please keep St. Paul’s in your prayers.

What’s Your Soul Food?

We all have things that feed us spiritually.  Certainly hearing and studying Gods’ word, attending worship services, and Holy Communion are our regular spiritual meals, the balanced diet we cannot live without.  However, as uniquely created individuals, we all have our “food” preferences, maybe stemming from our own interests and talents, maybe inherited or gained through experience.  So what’s your favorite spiritual food?  What nourishes your soul?

I remember a friend who told me, “I feel closest to God when I’m singing.”  Many people may identify with that.  Others get a spiritual charge from creativity — making a banner, decorating the church, designing a beautiful bulletin board or using carpentry skills to build a new altar or pulpit.  Some love to serve — they enjoy children, or nursing home residents or fellowship dinners.  My friend Nancy, and also my husband, love to teach.  They get excited to see how even those who know the gospel story well, can learn and grow in His Word. For me, it’s reading and writing.  I feel God speaking to me in all that I read and I feel Him speaking through me as I write.

The point is, we are fed by what God does for us;  we are also fed by what we do for God.  He doesn’t need the things we give Him, but we need to give them.   He made us to love Him and to give back to Him.  So what is it for you? That’s my question to our writers and readers.  I’d like to hear your thoughts.