twice a month at the refuge we have a gathering called “refuge advocates”, a time for learning, training, encouragement, and soul care for people who journey with people in hard places. i love this group! it is not just for refuge advocates but for friends from other churches & ministries, too, to come and have a space to process and learn together. this past week we did a neighborhood prayer walk as part of lent & being more aware of what’s going on around us and inside of us at the same time.
oh, it was so pretty, what can happen with intentional quiet space and a little guidance.
it was also really hard, seeing what maybe we hadn’t seen before in new ways. the area where the refuge is located is in the suburbs but it is the ghetto of our town, on the other side of the railroad tracks, and the contrast between it and other parts of broomfield is really evident.
the exercise made me think of christine sine’s new book, return to our senses: reimagining how we pray. i hope you’ll get a copy (i gave some as christmas presents this year. it is so good!) .it is centered on opening ourselves up to diverse and meaningful ways of connecting with God. i love what she says in the book about prayer:
“Prayer is not about finding the right words to say to God, it is about becoming alive to the loving presence of God in each and every moment. It is about waking up to the fact that the love of God shines through every act, every object and every conversation. The speaking of words can become rote and repetitive, even boring at times, the developing of relationship requires flexibility, creativity and constant willingness to change and to grow. Anything that connects us to the love of God, or expresses our love for God is an act of prayer. Sights, sounds, tastes, smells, textures can all be acts of prayer that draw us into deeper intimacy with God.”
i love this reminder that anything that connects us to the love of God, or expresses our love for God, is an act of prayer.
we started our walk with this prayer:
God, help us see.
help us feel.
help us taste.
help us smell.
help us hear.
help us listen.
help us understand.
help us love.
for our walk, we used the beatitudes as a guide and had some reflection questions to consider (yep, i’m a broken record). each one had a personal reflection in addition to what we noticed in the neighborhood as we were walking. i thought i’d share it here today for formation friday and for those of you who might want to try it, even if in the comfort of your own home, as a practice of “noticing” and tuning into our hearts and what we are wrestling with and also what’s around us in prayer.
blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ,for they will be filled.
blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
– Matthew 5:3-10
as you walk, notice:
spiritual poverty. practical poverty. // consider places where God’s presence is needed.
- what are some ways we are spiritually poor?
- what are some ways this neighborhood might be?
places of pain and grief. // consider what’s going on behind certain doors, up certain streets.
- what are things we are grieving right now?
- what are some things that people around here might have lost?
- who is comforting them in their pain?
dry and hungry places. this can be practically or spiritually.
- what does it look like, feel like there?
- what are we hungry and thirsty for right now?
- what do you think others out here are hungry and thirsty for?
places that need healing, mercy. // imagine some of the things people around here struggle with: broken relationships, job loss, divorce, depression, shame, abuse, struggling kids, addiction, mental illness, chronic pain, physical illness, immigration.
- what are some areas of your life that need God’s healing & mercy?
- how do you think God’s mercy shows up here?
places of beauty. // notice God’s beauty.
- where are you seeing it in your own life right now?
- where do you see it today?
places in our heart that are hardened and judgmental. // notice our hearts as we are walking.
- what are our hearts hardened to right now?
- how are we judging others in our own life?
- how are our hearts hardened to the needs around us or protected by our judgmentalness?
places in need of peace. // think of God’s shalom–wholeness.
- how are you finding greater peace & wholeness in your life right now?
- what would God’s shalom look like for this neighborhood?
places of persecution. // consider how people here are persecuted for all kinds of reasons.
- how do you maybe feel persecuted in your life right now?
- what are some things people who live here might be persecuted for?
- what would it look like to be persecuted on others behalf, for doing what’s right no matter the cost?
as you walk, keep asking yourself these three questions, courtesy of my dear & wise friend from mile high ministries, ryan taylor:
- what’s the struggle?
- what’s the hope?
- what’s the invitation?
God, we don’t want to miss you. we want to notice you in new ways, creative ways, beautiful ways, hard ways. may our hearts & eyes & ears & mouths & hands be open.
have a great weekend. love, kathy
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ps: a lot of you may have already this on rachel held evans’ blog, but in case you didn’t yet, this is a lovely simple thought on turning ugly into beautiful as a way to pray. now that’s cool.