How Does One Begin?
This is the start of my third week at my new appointment—starting a House Church Network for the Cal-Pac Conference. The question I am getting most every time I meet with folks to share about the Network is, how do you start something like this?
For me, I started by reflecting on other things I have begun. And I realized that key in new beginnings is prayer.
I am learning this again as I often forget & get going a million miles an hour. But important to me in this new time in my life is living a different rhythm. I take my lead from Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
I see the House Church Network as inviting people into the “unforced rhythms of grace” and so I desire to live fully into this in my own life and I am finding prayer enables me to do so.
Currently, I begin with the Daily Office (I use the ipad app)—what I like about this is it enables me to take my place with others in prayer all over the world (there is a link on it to see where people around the globe are in prayer). It is not perfect (lack of inclusive language) but it is very good. This traditional form of prayer is very psalm based and feels both ancient and new. There is an audio track as well so you can experience the prayers and psalms being read aloud.
Following the Daily Office, I spend between 20-30 minutes in personal prayer. Whatever time I have I divide it into 5 minutes increments (I use a timer to alert me every 5 minutes and to tell me when the 30 minutes is done).
I pray “The Jesus Prayer” the first 5 and last 5 minutes (“Lord, have mercy on me a sinner”), then I take 5 minutes to see what I need to embrace and let go of that day—often I pray something like, “I breathe in love (and take in a deep breath) and breathe out fear (and exhale). This 5 minutes is new each day as I find I need to let go of and embrace various things.
Then I pray 5 minutes for whatever is really on my heart—that could be something from the morning news, an ill family member or friend, whatever.
Next, I focus on the House Church ministry by asking God for insight into what to do on this day and I work to surrender my good ideas for God’s much better ideas. The last 5 minutes is for the leaders who will be part of our pilot group (starting in January)—I ask God to help me be aware who he is raising up to lead these churches and pray for them. I am praying for half of the pilot group to be young adults (ages 18-35).
Finally, I spend time with the daily lectionary (again, an app)—usually the gospel text. I take time to read it several times and then I ask God to help me see in the text what I need to hear today. This idea came from “Exponential” (the book, not the Conference) where Dave Ferguson talks about his desire to hear from God daily. He writes,
“As I read, I underline any verses that seem to resonate in my heart or bring conviction. Next I write out those verses with some observations, thinking through how they apply to me and my life. Then I write out my prayers to God. Last, I just sit quietly and see if God brings to mind thoughts that I need to take action on. If I sense that God has brought something to mind, I write it down in my journal to remind me to take action.” (830 Kindle “Exponential”)
This has been a very rich and meaningful time for me. I find God speaking to me often as I write, think, pray and keep silence around a text.
Today’s text was the Parable of the Sower. As I sat with the text, I remembered reading something recently about it that was freeing so I spent some time exploring that and ended my time with a prayer lifting up what I experienced the text saying to me and my life.
Usually that is an hour—give or take. I am finding that starting this way enables me to let go of needing to control the day and opens me up to the gentle nudges of the Spirit. Being intentional in prayer sinks me into the reality that this network is God’s thing and my role is to draw close to God and follow where I hear his leading. I wear a silver bracelet to remind me of this outside my prayer time, it says, “She leaves the rest to God.”
I have also invited others to be in prayer too. I have had 7 people respond to the invitation to be in daily prayer for the House Church Network. I will be emailing them weekly info on what they might pray for that week. This is just starting this week and I am so looking forward to connecting with these people!
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Prayer is the breath of your life which gives you the freedom to go and stay where you wish and to find the many signs which point out the way to a new land.”
May it be so this day!