2014-2015 Renovaré Christian Book Club discussion

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Ordinary Saint > Week 4, Ordinary Saint

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message 1: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Quinn | 106 comments Mod
Hello Renovare friends! Welcome to Week 4 of our reading of "The Making of an Ordinary Saint" by Nathan Foster. This week we read chapters 5 and 7 on Meditation and Simplicity. We have access through the Member page at the Renovare website to a piece by Kai Nilson titled, "Let Life Be Your Teacher." We also have the complete piece by Kai that was titled "Grace-full," available at the site previously. We discovered that the piece was missing a page on the Member site. We apologize for this and hope you will go back to read the remaining page from Kai. Blessings on your life with God this week as you read, pray, and place yourself before Christ for His forming. It is good to be walking this road together.


message 2: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Quinn | 106 comments Mod
And one more thing--there is also a video this week on Simplicity that members may view. Enjoy!


Bill from Florida | 50 comments Not sure where this came from, maybe Episcopal Book of Prayer, but a friend introduced me to 'Simple, Sincere, Serene'. As my life simplifies with focus I can more clearly be sincere by letting my yes's be wholehearted and my no's be clear and follow-up-able. The few times I have been able to follow through on the simply, sincere part a serenity has crept up on me. It is a delightful sense of God's presence, protection and provision leading me to want to be even more simple.


message 4: by Melissa (new)

Melissa | 27 comments “Even more confusing was the realization that it wasn’t just meditation I practiced when I exercised. I would inadvertently flow between other spiritual disciplines as well.” Page 82
Richard and Nathan covered this in the interview as well – that the disciplines are somewhat artificially divided but are really all one spiritual life. As I was reflecting on meditation, for example, I went to the very familiar story of Martha and Mary. This reflection brought meditation and simplicity together for me. “Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. (meditation) But Martha was distracted by all the preparations…” Jesus answered Martha’s complaint “Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed, only one. (simplicity) Mary has chosen what is better…” Luke 10:38-42 Mary demonstrated that inward orientation toward Jesus of simplicity.
These two chapters and interview have helped me to re-orient my attention toward God, which has resulted in removing some unnecessary distractions, electronic in nature, which in turn has led to more time and space to sit and listen to Jesus.


message 5: by Diane (new)

Diane Seager | 54 comments I am relatively new to the disciplines and Renovare, and this week's video was so needed for me. I must go back and listen again. I must learn to seek the inward disciplines through and with God's Grace. As a dear friend of mine once said, "We are not human doings - we are human beings." The inward disciplines putting us to BE in his presence to change us and manifest the disciplines outwardly. WOW! Will I ever stay on this path?! I guess this is why we need each other, to know we are not alone on this winding journey. PEACE in HIM this week!


message 6: by Kyle (new)

Kyle Norman | 16 comments I was pleased when the Foster's take about how the disciplines inter-relate with one another. I have been working on a guide for my parish entitled "52 weeks of Simplicity" - and have been getting very frustrated trying to come up with suggestions that don't touch on other disciplines.

I found this both personally and creatively freeing.


message 7: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne Johnson | 17 comments I have just come home from a study group that has begun Celebration of Discipline. I love the way Richard emphasized the connected nature of the disciplines. I tried to explain to our group that they should not be too rigid in practicing the disciplines but to be open to God showing them how they should fit into their lives. That may look different for each of us. Nathan has discovered this for himself. He realized he had been practicing many of the disciplines without knowing it. I think many of us come with a preconceived idea of what the spiritual disciplines are and perhaps those ideas are a little stuffy and rigid. I also feel I have been freed.


message 8: by Martha (new)

Martha Cornelius | 10 comments I really like the following statements by Nathan in the simplicity chapter: when we're living like Jesus, gentle, glorious, strong, the fruit of the spirit quits being something we try for and becomes a natural outgrowth of our lives.
And being empowered by God's total acceptance of us, we become people learning to walk humbly thru life. Learning to respond to life in helpful ways.
We don't need to be false or pretend. We are who we are, a people in progress.
Enjoy things without needing to own them.
Everything is a gift from God, cared for by God and I need to make it available to others.
If, I let people down, they might not like me and I might feel rejected which would reinforce the lies I believe about myself and I'd be forced to face the reality that your opinion of me matters and I'm prone to let you define me.


message 9: by Martha (new)

Martha Cornelius | 10 comments I really like the following statements by Nathan in the simplicity chapter: when we're living like Jesus, gentle, glorious, strong, the fruit of the spirit quits being something we try for and becomes a natural outgrowth of our lives.
And being empowered by God's total acceptance of us, we become people learning to walk humbly thru life. Learning to respond to life in helpful ways.
We don't need to be false or pretend. We are who we are, a people in progress.
Enjoy things without needing to own them.
Everything is a gift from God, cared for by God and I need to make it available to others.
If, I let people down, they might not like me and I might feel rejected which would reinforce the lies I believe about myself and I'd be forced to face the reality that your opinion of me matters and I'm prone to let you define me.


message 10: by Joel (new)

Joel Anderson (apprentice_jca) | 10 comments Simplicity of purpose is such a beautiful aspect of the with-God life. I love the quote that Nathan Foster shared elsewhere from Nouwen, "I am deeply convinced that the Christian leaders of the future are called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but their vulnerable selves."

Wow. Freedom. What does it look like to be irrelevant to society? How do we offer our vulnerable self? Perhaps Henri Nouwen is one of the best examples of this way of life.

Also, it seems that Nouwen (and Nathan) are good at being vulnerable in their writing. I'd like to be more like them.


message 11: by Becky (new)

Becky | 19 comments I was encouraged to read how Nathan sees exercise as part of spiritual growth. Likewise, I consider my gym time as an extension of my devotion time. I gain insights, peace, and a perspective realigned with God when I exercise. When walking in nature I have some of my best conversations with God. Richard Foster, in the introduction, says that meditation is the discipline that "helps us to listen well and to hear God correctly." I find that while engaging my body in exercise I am a better listener to His divine voice.


message 12: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Quinn | 106 comments Mod
I appreciated Nathan's conversation with his dad in the chapter on Meditation, where he made this comment, "It's hard not to get caught up in thinking maybe I should be trying harder. ... Aren't the disciplines supposed to hold more drudgery?"

Are there some of us in this group who are newer to the spiritual disciplines and who can resonate with this question? How are Nathan's experiences and thoughts helping to shift your understanding of the disciplines?


message 13: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne Johnson | 17 comments Brenda, your comments remind me of a conversation we had at our council time this week where we were studying the discipline of meditation. One gentlemen insisted he was not good at meditation and had little wasn't sure how to approach it. Yet in listening to him it was apparent that he practiced meditation all the time. The problem was in his definition and his preconceived idea of what meditation was. His idea was wrong. Fortunately he was hearing God and listening well. It is funny how we get these ideas in our heads of what the disciplines are and that they should be drudgery. Fortunately those ideas are wrong.


message 14: by Diane (new)

Diane Seager | 54 comments Yes, yes, yes - I am new to the disciplines, and I can resonate with Nathan's question. I am learning that I am not alone in my struggle with the disciplines and keeping my focus on seeking God as the center of all my doings. I remember wanting someone to give me a daily-weekly-monthly schedule to make sure that I wasn't missing any of the disciplines. I am feeling renewed to be conscious of the disciplines but keeping a single focus - to love God and to hear God.


message 15: by Liz (last edited Feb 01, 2015 06:16AM) (new)

Liz Bromstrup | 19 comments I'd like to give a shout out to Richard Foster for both his books, Celebration of Discipline and The Freedom of Simplicity. I read them both when they first came out in the late seventies. The first book left me wanting more on the topic of simplicity, and then the second book came out. I appreciated that simplicity was not about how one's life appeared but about the focus of one's inner life. This was before I had lived very much life at all. In concert with the Holy Spirit, and input from many other sources over the decades, I can say that learning to focus on staying connected to God and hearing His voice has defined my walk. It takes a very long time to incorporate this wisdom, and the effort is daily and the progress is incremental. But in each Christian, God has established a beachhead on enemy territory, and that is how He is bringing His kingdom among us. (Shout out here to Dallas Willard and John Piper.)
I am so thankful for the obedience of the millennia of Christians before us, because the blessings we enjoy are a result of their plodding walks with God and the light that shone through them. Richard Foster chronicles the lives of some of them in Streams of Living Water, and Nathan Foster uses similar illustrations with each chapter. I am now reading the book The Locust Effect, about the connection between poverty and violence and the lack of justice for those billions in poverty. I didn't have to read many pages to realize that I have nothing to complain about, ever! All this to say that the " liberty and justice " we enjoy is the result of centuries of obedience of multitudes of followers of Jesus. And I didn't miss the point of The Freedom of Simplicity! I wanted to send that encouragement out.


message 16: by Liz (last edited Feb 01, 2015 06:15AM) (new)

Liz Bromstrup | 19 comments I also want to send a shout out to Pastor Kai Nilson. You might be able to tell from my post above that I am a lifelong "bookie". Meditation is the discipline that allows me to digest what I have read and to incorporate it as a practice. It is how I feed my soul, how I increase my space for God. I mostly read while eating breakfast, about 10 minutes a day. Then I have something to think about that keeps my connection to God open. I work full time and have a very full life. There is nothing "monkish" about it. Yet I hear God's voice in the midst of it all, just like Nathan Foster wrote in this chapter. Soldier on, fellow readers!


message 17: by Becky (new)

Becky | 19 comments I have contemplated much on simplicity as the "internal orientation toward God" (Richard Foster) and the integration of the disciplines into the whole of our lives as both Nathan and Richard discussed and others have written posts about. I am asking God to bring about this internal orientation and integration in my daily life. I am grateful for this book study to provide a space to go deeper.


message 18: by Rosalind (new)

Rosalind  | 12 comments I would be interested to hear how different people practice meditation. There are so many variations, so many different ways to bring our focus to God alone. I have certainly not done it through exercise, though it may develop. Please tell your stories.

I tend to have my best meditative times lying on the bed, sometimes listening to a worship song on the repeat loop on my phone, sometimes just whispering the Name of Jesus, and sometimes using images, like the picture of me sitting next to Jesus on His throne. Sometimes it is so easy and the Holy Spirit just comes all over me, and sometimes it seems impossible. Occasionally, I have felt like my spirit is floating out of my body, or I am really aware of my spirit. Most times, He just tells me something or gives me a picture, maybe I feel the Holy Spirit just a little.

Developing this tuning in to Him is really important in prayer ministry. We get people coming in with some physical issue and one of the team senses or gets a word of knowledge about some spiritual or other issue and it all comes from this intimacy with the Holy Spirit.


Bill from Florida | 50 comments Roz - Currently I mainly use Centering Prayer and the Jesus Prayer. Also I periodically attend a World Community of Christian Meditation group. I really liked Richard Foster's booklet "Christian Meditation" but it is out of print with a lot of the material included in Sanctuary of the Soul. Due partly to my past I need to continually differentiate between Christian meditation and other forms of meditation. The essential difference seems to be that Christian forms focus on God rather than emptying.


message 20: by Becky (new)

Becky | 19 comments In response to Roz's question on stories of how we practice meditation: I agree that the key distinctive to Christian meditation is a focus on God. Any activity that enhances our focus on God and minimizes distractions could be considered meditative. Since I have always been a nature girl, most of my earliest personal encounters with God were in nature--on a hike, sitting on top of a hill with a beautiful vista, arranging my devotional time near a window where I could gaze out on the beauty of His creation. Without realizing it at the time, I was being meditative as I pondered who He is while gazing upon the beautiful scene. I do this more intentionally now. Since I am visually oriented, if the location (often when I travel) does not offer a view out the window, I will arrange my environment to gaze upon something else of beauty, such as a piece of art, while I contemplate God, His attributes, Jesus life and ministry, His work in my own life. ... (I have also heard other suggestions to focus on a candle, a cross, or other symbolic object.)

Regarding exercise. I often exercise immediately after my devotions. This gives me an extension of time to think and process what I have read in His Word, or in books like this one. Again, I am focusing on God, His Word, His Ways, what He may be doing or directing in my life--meditative activities along with the exercise, which seems to free me from other distractions.


message 21: by Bee Jay (new)

Bee Jay | 16 comments For Roz and anyone else, the best book I know on meditation is Mark Thibodeaux, Armchair Mystic, sub-titled Easing into Contemplation. It's on my "reserved shelf," a special place I keep the books I don't want to misplace! I also bought a loaner copy so I can share with friends and not lose the reserved copy!
Mark talks about four types of prayer: talking at God, reciting the prayers of others, listening to God, and being with God. He spends the most time on Listening. And I don't know about you, but I have trouble with shutting up and listening!


Bill from Florida | 50 comments Just yesterday I came across a model of three types of deeply interacting with God. First, deep listening by quietly being alert to the Holy Spirit. Second, hearing what the Holy Spirit is saying. Third, questioning and interacting with what the Holy Spirit said. The challenge was to identify which of those aspects (listening, hearing, interacting) I am most comfortable with and which ones I need to grow in.


message 23: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne Johnson | 17 comments I often use silence with centering prayer so that I can listen to God. I also like to meditate when reading scripture. I will read slowly, pausing wherever the Spirit nudges me. As the Spirit leads I will question God about how this relates to my life and/or the world.


message 24: by ChaCha (new)

ChaCha | 7 comments I too have used nature and hiking as a way to meditate. That almost seems easy, because natural beauty just moves us in general. I have never been able to focus on meditation though. For years, my husband has been telling me to do everyday things intentionally and with love. I always heard his words, but never really listened. With Nathan's book, and some recent sermons at church, I have come to realize that you can do everyday things and make that into a meditation on God. In many ways, that makes daily activities less mundane and less of a chore, because at the bottom of it is your effort to connect with God. And I hate to admit it, but my husband is right. We had a great laugh about that one! I also find singing to be very centering and meditative. We just started going to a church that has an amazing choir. You can just sense the spirit going through them, and when I sing with them, I feel a focus on God, and I often end up tearing up and feeling deeply moved.


message 25: by Jeanne (new)

Jeanne Johnson | 17 comments ChaCha, your comments about doing everyday things with intentionality remind me of Brother Lawrence. He invited God to join him in whatever he was working on, even the most mundane activities. He believed that he could be in the presence of God while washing pots in the kitchen as well as those who were in the prayer chapel. I recommend the short book to anyone who has not already read it. (The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.)


message 26: by Sherri (new)

Sherri S-D | 12 comments Yes, Bill, I was struck by Nathan's statement on page 85, "The main distinction of Christian meditation is the focus on filling rather than emptying." I have sometimes had sincere Christians express a fear of meditation because of the many other religions that use it. This distinction helps me not only in practice but in explaining it to others.


message 27: by Sherri (new)

Sherri S-D | 12 comments Brenda wrote: "I appreciated Nathan's conversation with his dad in the chapter on Meditation, where he made this comment, "It's hard not to get caught up in thinking maybe I should be trying harder. ... Aren't th..."


message 28: by Sherri (new)

Sherri S-D | 12 comments I think the word "disciplines" connotes drudgery. That's why some people expect the spiritual disciplines to be so. Some other people prefer to exchange "disciplines" for the word "practices" (not that I ever relished practicing many things either!) Nevertheless, I think Nathan's thoughts and experiences bring home the purpose behind the disciplines, which is to know and enjoy God more. It seems to me, if what we are doing accomplishes that, then we can't help but find them life-giving. In fact, if any practice feels like drudgery, then it probably isn't leading us into the fulness of life that Jesus promises us.


message 29: by Sherri (new)

Sherri S-D | 12 comments Liz wrote: "I'd like to give a shout out to Richard Foster for both his books, Celebration of Discipline and The Freedom of Simplicity. I read them both when they first came out in the late seventies. The firs..."


message 30: by Sherri (new)

Sherri S-D | 12 comments I appreciate your gratitude to the generations who have plodded before us, Liz, and your perspective on the length of this spiritual journey. I often wish my growth in Christ were faster and more apparent than it is. It's just good to be reminded that this is a marathon, but our victory is sure. Thanks for sharing.


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