Tag Archives: via de cristo

What is Via de Cristo?

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de-colores-cursillo-clipart-1I just recently came back from another wonderful Via de Cristo weekend.  Before I left for this weekend I did a little bit of internet research on Via de Cristo and other three-day renewal movement groups like Cursillo (Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian), Tres Dias and Walk to Emmaus just to name a few.  All of these three-day movements are basically the same.  Lay people, just plain, everyday people from the church that are not clergy, run them.  They are not run by a particular church, but follow the doctrines of mainstream churches like Lutheran, Methodist and, as stated above, Catholic, Episcopal and Presbyterian.  To keep this blog simple, I’m going to be writing about the Lutheran Via de Cristo.

During my research I came across some blogs and forums that really had some awful things to say about these movements.  We’re secretive, we’re a cult, we’re all crazy!! (really???), we’ll try to “convert” you; you can only go if you’re invited (goes with being secretive), we have all these “code” words, and on and on.  Now I have to say here that a three-day weekend isn’t for everyone.  Some stories about people who had a hard time when they attended a weekend really should not have gone in the first place.  Many felt they were pushed to go (some will say coerced).  No one should be forced to go on one of these weekends. In this blog, I’m going to talk about some of these issues.

To go to a Via de Cristo weekend, you have to be asked to go or be “sponsored”.  If you would really like to go and haven’t been asked you could talk with your pastor.  If others in your congregation have gone then he should know about it and someone would be happy to sponsor you.  Before asking anyone to attend a weekend, a sponsor should pray about and for that person.  The person who would get the most out of a Via de Cristo weekend is a person that already attends church regularly and may be searching for a deeper understanding of Christianity.  Perhaps someone who does not completely understand what living the life of a Christian is about. These are examples of the kind of people who may go, maybe with a few reservations, but they would be willing.

The weekend itself is three days of being away from the world.  We ask new participants to shut off their cell phones so they are not distracted.  This bothers some, that there is no contact during the weekend.  We want the new participants to concentrate on their spiritual selves during this time.  It is a retreat, and by the very definition of the term (the act or process of withdrawing…) you withdraw from the world.  If there is something going on and the participant needs to be in touch, then a word to the leader (or Rector/Rectora) will let us know that arrangements need to be made.

I’ll state here that there is a whole new vocabulary you learn when you participate in a weekend.  It is not a secret code.  Via de Cristo started in Spain many years ago and it has many of the Spanish names still in use, Rector/Rectora is only one of many.  The name Via de Cristo is Spanish for “Way of Christ”.  A song called “De Colores” is sung as a theme song of sorts.  This song was written years ago when the movement first started and is still sung today.  The word has also become a signal of sorts.  These movements are all over the world, so if someone who has gone on a weekend sees a “DeColores” sticker on your car, they will know you’ve been on a weekend as well.  De Colores means “in Color” in Spanish and there’s the thing with the Rooster.  You’ll have to hear the song to figure that one out.

During the three days you listen to fifteen talks, lay people give ten and pastors give five.  These talks outline the Christian way of life with an emphasis on Piety, Study, Apostolic Action and God’s Grace.  The pastor or spiritual directors give the talks on God’s Grace.  Surrounding these talks are others titled Ideal, Leaders, Christian Community in Action and others.  It can be very intense.  There is Chapel and communion offered at least once a day.  There is music, singing, food, fellowship and fun.  We do laugh quite a bit.  The cares of the world drop away and then as everyone relaxes the laughter starts.  It’s so healing.

If you’ve already been on a Via de Cristo weekend you then get the privilege of making one of these weekends happen for others.  You serve the participants by giving one of the ten talks, working in the chapel or the kitchen, cleaning up after everyone (we have several people who do this) or serving drinks and snacks in-between talks.

I look forward to serving on these weekends.  It is such a privilege to go and work for the Lord. I get a time to “unplug” from the world, serve the Lord and help others.  I really can’t see anything bad in that.

If you’ve heard anything bad about the Via de Cristo weekends, feel free to comment and we’ll try our best to answer any questions.

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Piety Part 2 – by Jim Edgel

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Here is the second installment in the series on Piety from Jim Edgel:

 

Authentic or true piety comes from a dynamic, personal relationship with God that is conscious, growing and shared.  Piety is living a life that responds to God’s amazing gift of grace in His son Jesus.  Conscious of the personal value of God’s grace and consciously choosing a life with Him.  This life in Christ must be continually growing.  We either grow or decline.  We cannot remain still.  As we live this life of grace, we must share it with others and be willing to accept people where they are, listen to them and share our most precious gift – our time.  As we become more self-giving, we grow in our potential as human beings and understand we are God’s channel of grace to others and ourselves…  Christ must remain at the center of all aspects of our life, every action, every decision we make. We can’t say I love Jesus but this is business, work or vacation; or I am having a difficult time right now, I must take care of myself.  God’s word tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” … What is Authentic or true piety? Authentic piety is directing our whole life to God.   When we leave God out of certain areas of our life, we leave a huge space for Satan to slip in.  Directing our whole life to God is not about a long list of things we are forbidden to do.  It is about consciously sharing a growing Christ-centered life, which comes from the response of a grateful heart.  When we give our life over to God and have a willingness to be changed by the Holy Spirit, we begin to discover the true purpose and plan God has created us for.  We start the most amazing adventure we could ever imagine… For our whole life to be directed to God;

The three elements of every act – ones knowing, wanting and doing have to be directed to God.  We should know God and know what He teaches.  When our knowledge centers on God, God directs our knowing.  Wanting is the emotions that drive our actions.  Wanting becomes loving when our love for God drives our actions.  We strive to act according to God’s will.  Piety is directing our whole life to God by knowing who God is and what He taught.  Loving God with our whole heart and striving to carry out His will is the full response to the gift of grace.

Piety is an Ideal.  Living in a relationship with God is the Christian Ideal.  This is a lifelong process that brings us to a personal relationship with God.  And is nurtured in the same way as other intimate relationships we pursue in life.

With God at the center of our life, the Holy Spirit will help us maintain the goal of emulating the character of Jesus and His approach to dealing with people and problems.  All of us, no matter how capable we become in our Christian walk, will make mistakes.  I personally make many mistakes and at times need correction.  None of us ever get it all right … Except for Jesus, of course.  One of the greatest marks of maturity as human beings and to reveal the level of our spiritual maturity is the ability to receive correction.  Other things that reveal our level of spiritual maturity are:

Characteristics of authentic piety.  Courage,  Naturalness, and  Vibrant and joyful life.  Courage is not foolishness; it is the mark of one who will do what is right because it is the right thing to do.  It takes courage to step out of our “comfort zone” and accept new challenges that God may bring into our life.  It also takes courage to forgive someone who has hurt us.  Remember, we can do all things through Him who strengthens us … It is vital that everything we do as Christians be natural.  Our actions should be a natural response to a grateful heart.  People living a life of authentic piety should stand out only because of the love they have for God and others.  Jesus said “By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  An ordinary life lived to the fullest is not dull, it is exciting and rich.  As our faith deepens, we sense a new meaning to each part of life.  We grasp new potential and realize new talents that God has created in us.  As we direct our whole life to God our personal relationship with Him impacts every area of our lives.   The practices of piety are those things we do that nourish our relationship with God.  Practices of piety are not piety in themselves; they are our concrete, visible responses to God’s love for us.  Practices of piety such as worship, prayer and Christian service to others flow out of our relationship with God and nourish it.  Life must be approached from the perspective that all we do is part of our response to God’s call.  Some may only know who God is by being around Christians.  The outcome of authentic piety is the peace of God.  As we are directing our whole life to God, we are conscious of being in a relationship with the Triune God.  We are:  Children of the Father, brothers of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit.

 

To be continued…

Piety Part 1- by Jim Edgel

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The following are excerpts from a talk on Piety given by Jim Edgel – They have been reprinted with his permission:

Piety is a word we rarely use and may think of it in a negative way such as the “pious” ways of the Pharisees.  But authentic Christian piety is a very good thing.  In fact, if we explain the life Jesus led, it was a life of true piety.  Brothers, as we become filled with the Holy Spirit, God calls each one of us to a new life, and this involves a radical change from within.  This change alters our relationship with:  Our self, with God, with other people, and with the world, we live in together.  We see ourselves differently, knowing that no matter how broken we may be, we are forgiven and very valuable to God.  We have a new direction for our lives as children of God, full of marvelous capabilities.  We begin to see other people through God’s eyes, loving them as brothers and sisters who were created with the same potential that God has given to us.  And as we continue to transform; we see our world, as messed up as it may be, as God’s gift to us, given for our enjoyment and care.  When we speak of piety, we are speaking of a full response in all areas of our life to God’s amazing love and grace. We must seek a personal relationship with God, not just knowing about God … But knowing who God is.  Being Christian, not just doing Christian things.  How can we discover our God-given potential and be the complete person that God calls us to be as we live a life of grace?  This consists of balancing three key dimensions of our lives.  All three are equally important and it takes all three, working together, giving equal stability and balance in order to support us as we live in a close relationship with God.  To better understand the importance of Piety in our daily walks as Christians; which includes taking the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for you and me to the world, we must understand the difference between authentic piety and false piety. Authentic piety is an intimate, revitalizing deepening relationship with God. Jesus explains this to us.  You may remember reading in the Gospel of Matthew when the Pharisees gathered to question Jesus and one of the group asked Him which was the greatest commandment in the law.  And Jesus using His words with great precision, as always, not only answers their question, He explains authentic piety and sums up all the commandments in three sentences.  22nd chapter of Matthew verses 37, 38, 39 – And Jesus said to him “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”False piety is a superficial, inaccurate or deceptive practice that appears to be Christian.  False piety is destructive.  It distracts and diverts people from seeking and knowing God.  It prevents them from finding and living the fulfilled life God has planned for them.  Friends … any of us can respond to God’s call in either of two ways.  We can follow a path of faith and commitment as Paul described in his letter to the Colossians “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Or we can devote ourselves to religious, regulations and practices that mark us as “A good Christian” who does “Christian” things.  Those who take this path do not understand the role of God’s grace in the lives of those who are in a relationship with Him.

More to follow

 

Group Spiritual Direction

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Those who participate in a Via de Cristo retreat weekend are encouraged to continue growing in faith by forming “reunion groups.”  You may be more familiar with the term “accountability” group.  I’ve been a member of small groups like this on and off for over 25 years.

The group I am in right now meets once a month, at our church.  We begin with prayer.  Each member takes a turn talking about how they are doing in the areas of piety (prayer, worship, confession and other spiritual disciplines), study and action … in other words, how are things between me and God?  Practical suggestions and help are sometimes offered by members of the group, but the intent is not to solve problems.  Instead it is a safe place to share burdens, request prayer support and be held accountable.  We each leave the session with a plan to help us persevere and deepen our faith until we next meet.

Over the years, groups change or end, but the friendships made there last forever.  My reunion group sisters have encouraged me and given me the confidence to do things I would never have attempted on my own (for example, this blog). They have been the voice of Christ to me many, many times.

If you’re not in such a group, start one!  It’s really not rocket science.  Just find a couple of Christian friends who truly want to grow in their faith and knowledge of God;  commit to meeting on a regular basis;  share with one another;  pray together– then sit back and see what God can do!  You won’t be disappointed.

What is Spiritual Direction?

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I first heard the term “spiritual direction” when I attended  a Via de Cristo retreat weekend in 1990.  Spiritual direction was mentioned in a list of disciplines that could be helpful in increasing piety, but we received little information to explain what this discipline entailed, or how to go about doing it.  Being the curious person I am, I went back to my home congregation and asked my Pastor, “what is spiritual direction and are you my spiritual director?”  Turns out he didn’t really know either.  That started me on a journey that led to lots of reading and research, 5+ years of being a spiritual directee, and finally a two year program through Oasis Ministries called, “Spiritual Direction for Spiritual Guides” during which I had several directees of my own.  After all of this, I still found myself asking, “Exactly what is this thing called spiritual direction?”

Most Lutherans, like me, are unfamiliar with the idea of spiritual direction.  The closest concept in our tradition is probably “seelsorge,” or care of souls, which is regarded as part of the pastoral office.

Like other Christians, however, we Lutherans do want to explore and deepen our faith lives and we know that certain relationships with others help us do that. Even those who have not heard of “spiritual direction” are comfortable with the idea of having a spiritual friend or mentor.  Luther himself spoke of “the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren.”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, Life Together,  says:

“God has willed that we should seek and find His living word in the witness of a brother, in the mouth of man.  Therefore, the Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s word to him.  He needs him again and again when he becomes discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself …”

Simply put, spiritual direction is pointing another person toward God.  I believe the ability to do this is a charism, or spiritual gift and it often occurs naturally in the Christian community, sometimes without the individuals involved being fully aware of it.

Stay tuned for my next post about my own experiences in spiritual direction …..

Loving Motivation

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“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  II Timothy 3:14-15

This was the epistle reading in church last Sunday, and the words I highlighted jumped out for me.  It made me think about all the people who’ve taught me about the faith.  What was their motivation to do so?

For many people, learning starts at home at a young age.  Maybe your mother sings hymns, you sit beside your father in the pew, your grandparents give you a Bible or read the Bible to you.  Studies have revealed that when someone is asked this question: “who had the greatest influence on my faith?”, the most frequent answer is “my mother.”  Surely this teaching is motivated by the love called “storge,”  family love, duty, affection.  This love may have its’ ups and downs, but it never stops caring.  Many parents want their children to know about God because they love them in this way. Paul’s acolyte, Timothy, learned in this way because Paul says to him:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.”  II Timothy 1:5

Growing in faith can be part of married life also.  “Eros” is a love which desires closeness and union.  How can we be fully one, if we are not both one in Christ?  This kind of love will create a natural desire to share in everything, to teach the other to love Christ as they do.  Peter says:

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives…”  1 Peter 3:1

Then there are our friends.  With them we share “philea” or brotherly love.  In Via de Cristo there is a saying, “make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.”  Most people who are unchurched, come to worship for the first time because a friend invited them.  Because we love our friends, we want them to share in the joy of fellowship with Christ.  We invite them to do the things that have been most meaningful in our own faith walk.

Finally, there are loads of people who share Christ simply because they love everyone as He did.  Dedicated Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, pastors, choir directors and others.  This is agape love, with no motive except to serve and edify others.

So it seems to me that some sort of love is the motive behind all Christian teaching.  No wonder the Bible says “God is love.  How would we learn about His love, how would we begin to experience it, without the love of others who spread it?  Think about the many people from whom you have learned.  Give thanks for their love.

 

 

Spend Your Time on Today

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This is not something I wrote, but something I was given on my original Via de Cristo retreat weekend and kept. It seems appropriate for our theme of “spending time.” The author is unknown:

There are two days in the week upon which and about which I never worry–two carefree days kept sacredly free from fear and apprehension.  One of these days is Yesterday.  Yesterday with its cares and frets and pains and aches, all its faults, its mistakes and blunders, has passed forever beyond my recall.  It was mine:  now it is God’s.

The other day that I do not worry about is Tomorrow.  Tomorrow, with all its possible adversities, its burdens, its perils, its large promise and performance, its failures and mistakes, is as far beyond my mastery as its dead sister, Yesterday.  Tomorrow is God’s day:  it will be mine.

It isn’t the experience of Today that drives us mad.  It is the remorse of what happened Yesterday and fear of what Tomorrow might bring.  These are God’s Days–Leave them to Him.

What is Via De Cristo?

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I just came back from serving on a weekend with the ladies & gentlemen of the Vineyard Via de Cristo movement and was asked to write something about my experience. What should I write? It is a lot harder than you would think because there are so many things that go into a weekend and contribute to the experience that is shared by all.

But what I can tell you without any hesitation is what it is not. It is not a cult – we do not try to change your beliefs, initiate you into some kind of weird teachings, or brainwash you. It is not a weekend of rest, relaxation, maincures and pedicures.

It is a 72 hour immersion into the word of the Lord. There is a lot of singing (I managed to lose my voice this weekend, much to the delight of my fellow weekenders), food, talks on tools that can help strengthen your walk, tears, laughter, clapping and the list goes on.

Whenever, either my husband or I participate in a weekend, we always ask each other – What did you bring home from your experience? This time I told him that I needed to show the world more of God’s love in the way I live and talk.

This experience will change you, I guarantee it, but YOU have to be willing to change. To all me fellow walkers – Thank you for all the support you give and the love I feel.

God Loves You And So Do I (GLYASDI)

Michele

And All God’s People Say Amen

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This poem was written for me by a dear friend on a very special weekend:  it was the Via De Cristo Women’s retreat that was held just a few days after 9/11.  I think it’s appropriate to our theme of change and also the Easter season.  Changes can be frightening and unsettling.  They don’t always seem to be good or even understandable;  but God is in control and He has the last word.  Many thanks to Martha Moore, the writer, who has also agreed to become one of the Lutheran lady bloggers.  I hope we’ll be hearing more from her.

In ancient times, at a horn’s blast

The walls of the city of Jericho

Shattered into shards,

And God’s people rejoiced.

In more recent times, in the hands of a jubilant mob

The wall dividing Berlin

Crumbled into rubble,

And God’s people rejoiced.

Today we are haunted by the vision

Of the disintegration of walls

Raining chaos on an incredulous earth,

And God’s people are weeping.

But we believe in the one who said,

“Destroy this temple and I will raise it up”—

The one who died to prove it,

Out of the dust we shall arise–

Out of the dust of our disasters, national and personal,

Out of the dust of our lost desires,

Out of the dust from which we were formed—-

Resurrection comes.  Amen.

Dem Dry Bones

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Image result for the dry bones of ezekielHave you ever felt like a pile of dry bones?  I know I have.  There was a time when I became totally exhausted and burned out.  The children were young and my husband had a long commute;  all the responsibilities for the household and everybody in it fell upon me;  my job became increasingly unrewarding and even my relationship with God seemed distant. I kept going, just putting one foot in front of the other, but I wasn’t happy with my life or myself.

What happened?  All I can say is God changed things.  Not in an instantaneous flash of lightening, but through a slow, steady working in my life.  I went on a Marriage Encounter weekend which did a great deal to revive my marriage;  a few years later, I attended a Via de Cristo weekend which revived my soul. Both of those experiences led to small groups and deep friendships that grounded and sustained me. The children grew older and more self sufficient, jobs changed and life turned around.

Have dry bones times come back?  Sure.  However, now I have the experience and  confidence of knowing that if I stick with God, they will pass.  When we’re faithful to Him, He changes things.  Sometimes He changes us!  It’s amazing to see what God can do.  He can even make dry bones live again!

“Behold, I am doing a new thing;  now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”  Isaiah 43:19