Tom and I are just back from Victoria B.C. where we have celebrated our 20th anniversary. It has been so good to look back over these years and reminisce on the joys and struggles of a growing loving relationship. We are more in love now than we were 20 years ago and I thank God for the wonder of this relationship.
Part of what I am very aware of as I sit here this morning is that for any loving relationship to grow in depth and meaning it must be lived into with intentionality and desire, something that is very necessary too in the development of our love for God. It seems appropriate therefore that I am also currently reading Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation by James K. A. Smith.
This is a book about Christian education, but it is also a book about love Smith contends that Christian education is a formative process that should redirect our desire towards God and God’s kingdom purposes. Worship and spiritual practices should be designed to train our love towards this desire. Desiring the Kingdom is a great book for anyone involved in Christian worship. Its academic language sometimes put me off – why I wonder do we need to make things sound more complicated than they are? However I soon got beyond this and found the ideas thought provoking and important.
As Smith says: we are fundamentally desiring creatures. We are what we love, and our love is shaped, primed and aimed by liturgical practices that take hold of our gut and aim our heart to certain ends (p40). He goes on to say:
we are attracted to a vision of the good life that has been painted for us in stories and myths, images and icons. It is not primarily our minds that are captivated but rather our imaginations, that are captured, and when our imagination is hooked, we’re hooked.(p54)
It is our habits that constitute the fulcrum of our desire: they are the hinge that turns our hearts, our love, such that it is to predisposed to be aimed in certain directions. (p56) Habits are inscribed in our hearts through bodily practices and rituals that train the heart, as it were, to desire certain ends.
One of the challenges we all face is that our image of the good life of love – be it for our spouse or for our God – is often shaped by bad habits and misleading stories. Lust and sex shape our images of love for others, self centredness and individualism shape our images of God’s love.
So what kinds of practices do we need to move us forward into the love of God or into a deepening loving relationship with our spouse?
- Practicing for God’s kingdom of love begin with rhythms and cadences of hope. The future we hope for – a future in which justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream- hangs over our present and gives us a vision of what to work for in the here and now as we continue to pray “Your kingdom come” (p158)…. The practices of Christian worship over the liturgical year form in us something of an “old soul” that is perpetually pointed to a future, longing for a coming kingdom and seeking to be such a stretched people in the present who are a foretaste of the coming kingdom. (p159). Any loving relationship must be pointed towards a hoped for vision of what that love can look like.
- Practicing for the kingdom is an invitation to be human – the call to be remade in God’s image, to become a community like that envisioned in Revelation 5:9 “from every tribe and language and people and nation.” That is what true worship is meant to be about. In the act of worship, and I want to add, in all our spiritual practices we come to renew our covenant of love with God and with our fellow worshippers so that we can be renewed, restored and empowered to live into our hope for the future.
- Practicing for the kingdom of means accepting the welcome and the blessing of a God who has graciously bound us to himself with a covenant of love. Learning to love means welcoming and accepting the love that has already been given to us. This may sound obvious but is not always easy, partly because of those false images of love that have been fed to us. Sometimes we have trouble recognizing love for what it is.
- Practicing for the kingdom means practicing the order and freedoms of the kingdom. We are only truly free to love and to flourish in that love when our desires are rightly ordered, bounded and directed to the end that constitutes our good. (p 176). Freedom is not permission to do what we want, it is an invitation to follow the laws that guide into the good life of God. Part of learning to love is learning to be liberated from our own selfish desires.
- Practicing for the kingdom means recognizing our brokenness, confessing where we have gone wrong and accepting forgiveness. The good news of the gospel is that our forgiveness comes as a gift, the overflowing of Christ’s work on the cross. Our brokenness and violence are met by the grace and love of God just as our brokenness in a loving human relationship is met by the grace and the love of our beloved.
- Practicing for the Kingdom means learning the language of the kingdom. Smith calls prayer the language of the kingdom but he is not talking about prayer that is a shopping list of our own desires he is talking about intercessory prayer, in which we articulate the vision of justice that is at the heart of God’s kingdom vision. So we pray for healing, protection from abuse, exploitation, and violence.
- Practicing the Kingdom means Renarrating the World. When we read the scriptures we are re-enacting the story of God and reminding ourselves of what the future is meant to look like. Stories, images, words, they all form memories that stir our imaginations and give us hope and confidence for the future. Looking back over our wedding photos, and our shared memories from the last 20 years was for Tom and I a special part of this year’s anniversary celebration that helped reaffirm our love and commitment to each other.
- Practicing the Kingdom means sharing supper with the king. The taking of the Eucharist together is central to our faith. It is in fact the solidifying element that cements our entire worship experience. Special meals shared together in special moments are always important elements of any loving relationship. Now I don’t want to belittle the importance of communion here by comparing it to shared meals with those we love, but there is a part of any shared meal that gives a glimpse into the banquet feast of God which the practice of communion foretells. Love without shared hospitality lacks something important whether it be human love or God’s love.
The post for today is a recap for all the submissions to the Lord Teach Us To Pray series thus far. Thank you to all the authors for contributing!
And the posts on prayer that I have added over the last few weeks:
Today’s post is a part of the Lord Teach Us to Pray series, written by Christine Dutton. Christine lives near Liverpool, England, and is a minister in training in the Methodist Church and a PhD student at the University of Birmingham. She tweets about prayer, knitting, bread making, ministerial training and life in general @christinedutton.
Since I completed my first knitted jumper aged 13, a chunky rust affair in garter stitch, perfect for beginners, I have never stopped. I can chart the last 30 years of my life by yarn; my first aran, the jumper I was working on when I left home to go to University, the pastel geometric design my friend commissioned, the multi-coloured tank-top I made for my husband, the baby blankets for my three children, and the scarves and hats too numerous to mention. And I have always known that the act of knitting has been a time to slow down, a part of each day where I have taken time to stop. But like many busy people I find it difficult to stop completely; the discipline of stilling my body doesn’t come easy. When my children were born and I spent hours and hours each day pushing buggies up and down to town, to the shops, to school, I once said to my minister in frustration, “When I am going to get time to pray?” His wise counsel was to find a way to stop seeing prayer as a separate activity but to build it into each part of my life.
In 2008, when I began my PhD in the ecclesiology of fresh expressions of church, one of my case studies was a group called Knit and Natter, based at Whitby Methodist Church, Ellesmere Port in the North West of England. Spending time with these women caused me to reflect upon how knitting and prayer could be interwoven. The physical rhythm of a repetitive stitch action can be a way into a simple prayer chant, such as “Jesus is Lord” or “Come Holy Spirit”. A pattern which uses a 3 stitch repetition can be used to as a way to focus on the trinity. But whichever prayer you may choose, each can be a mindful way to keep your hands active and productive while stilling your mind and heart.
Knitting and prayer go hand in hand when knitting is used as an aid to intercessory prayer for the recipient of the garment you are creating. There is the knitting of a garment for someone you know; for example, the ‘cuddle blankets’ I made my children when their cot blankets were no longer big enough! Into these blankets I prayed all my thankfulness for all they brought into our family life, prayers of confession for the times our relationships caused hurt or anger, but most of all that they would know as they pulled their blankets over them that they were surrounded by the love of God and my care and prayers for their life in all its fullness. Prayer scarves or shawls for those who are grieving, or about to go through a transition in their lives are part of many churches’ ministry and outreach programmes in the wake of Janet Bristow and Victoria Galo’s work (see here). Much of the knitting from the Knit and Natter group, however, is for those whom the group doesn’t know. Warm hats and scarves are distributed to the homeless by the Street Pastors in Chester, while premature baby clothes are sent to the local hospitals, and blankets are sent for those at the women’s refuge ready to move into flats of their own, so that they have a brightly coloured throw for a bed or sofa to take into the new stage of their lives. This sense of praying wider, creating a beautiful gift, reflecting and praying for the lives of those who will receive the garments and blankets has been for me a concrete way of embodying intercessory prayer.
Pete Rollins, in an interview with Jonny Baker in Curating Worship (SPCK: London, 2010), said the following:
‘The only true worship is in giving water to the thirsty and food to the hungry and clothes to the naked, and anything else is just window-dressing.’
I often hold that quote in mind as I knit, and hope that my knitting creates a place of prayer and worship, a place where each stitch has the possibility to be used by God in the ushering in of the Kingdom.
For our time on Camano on Monday I made a delicious quinoa salad and thought that you might appreciate the recipe. Quinoa has the most protein of any grain,and the highest fat content. It’s a great source of vitamins & minerals, and is considered a complete protein so if you are not familiar with this grain then you need to be. I particularly love a mix of red, black and white quinoa if you can find it. (available here at Trader Joes or as separate grains at PCC).
Quinoa originated in the Andean region of Bolivia, Peru, Equador and Columbia where it has been cultivated for 3-4,000 years. It seems to grow well here in the Pacific NW though I do not grow it because of lack of space. – maybe when we get the garden at the Mustard Seed Village going.
I enjoy it both as a hot vegetable – great for adding stir fry vegetables from the garden – or as a salad. It is really great for a picnic as it stays fresh without refrigeration. This recipe is like Tabbouleh but with quinoa instead of bulgar wheat. You can in fact use any vegetables in the salad – the one I made on Monday had mainly greens, peas and onions from the garden.
– 2 cups Quinoa
– 2 cups Parsley,Coarsely Chopped
– 1/2 cup Fresh Mint,Coarsely Chopped
– 2 lbs. Tomatoes,Chopped
– 1 lg Cucumber,Chopped
– 2 md Sweet Onion,Chopped
– 3/4 cups Olive Oil
– 3/4 cups Lemon Juice
– 2 sm Yellow Zucchini,Chopped
– 1 each Garlic,Crushed
1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add quinoa and cook covered for 15 minutes. Turn off and let stand. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool. Add tomatoes, cucumber, squash, onion, parsley, and mint. Mix well Add remaining ingredients and miz again. Let stand for at least an hour before serving.
Quinoa stir fry
– 4 cups cooked quinoa
– 1 stalks celery
– 1 sweet bell pepper, chopped in small pieces
– 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
– 1 large onion, chopped in small pieces
– 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
– 1 green zucchini , sliced
– 1 yellow zucchini , sliced
– 2 cups swiss chard or spinach, chopped
– 1/2 cup dried tomatoes
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
– 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
– 1 bay leaf
– 1/2 teaspoon tumeric
– 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
– 1/2 teaspoon cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Heat olive oil on medium low in a 3 – 4 qt saucepan or sauté pan. Saute onions until translucent add garlic & ginger, sauté with mustard seeds for 5 minutes
2. Chop celery, zucchini, mushrooms and red pepper, add to pan and sauté another five minutes.
3. Mix in the bay leaf, turmeric, coriander &; cumin
4. Add the quinoa and stir until mixed.
5. Stir in the optional greens, and fresh ground pepper
6. Cover and cook 5 more minutes, then serve – or refrigerate and serve chilled as a salad.
Yesterday we went up to Camano Island to the site of the Mustard Seed Village. We staked out the site for the first building, met with contractors and cleared prayer trails from the upcoming Celtic retreat. It was in many ways a momentous visit. But in the midst I started to feel discouraged. The dirt bike riders have been back again, dumping rubbish, destroying our altar and ramming into and damaging the porta potty.
As I watched the beautiful butterfly above drinking from the blackberry flowers I realized how easily I look at the down side of life and miss the unexpected blessings of God. Our theme for this year’s retreat is thankfulness and gratitude and I realize that this is the place in which I need to be living. As I looked around me I saw how much we have to be grateful for. The beauty of this land always takes my breath away and I love to walk the trails just drinking in the wonder of God’s love poured out in creation. Our team of work party volunteers, headed by Doug Woods who has helped set up retreats over the last 10 years is another amazing blessing. Even the dirt bikers have helped. Because they have been driving up the trails we had a lot less clearing to do.
Watching as Dennis Todd, our architect David Vandervort and other potential workers discussed the plans for the building and then staked out its exact positioning was probably the greatest blessing of all. Tom and I have waited 20 years to see this happen, and to think I could have missed the wonder of the moment if I had kept my eyes on the rubbish and not on the blessings.
I am currently rereading E Stanely Jones‘ The Way. It is one of my favourite devotionals and I find myself coming back to it time and time again. This week I am working through a section where Jones talks about Jesus as being greater than the Bible, greater than the Ten Commandments, greater than the Creeds, and even greater than faith itself. It is a challenging and thought provoking series of devotionals.
Jesus is greater than the Bible, there is only one mediator, ( 1 Tim 2:5) and one way to God. All scripture, all creeds, all revelation must be viewed and judged through the filter of Jesus Christ – his life, death and resurrection. Eternal life is not in the pages of the Bible, it is in Christ who is uncovered through the scriptrues. The Word is not made printer’s ink, says Jones, The Word was made flesh, not a page buta person.
It is true that we would know little about Christ if it were not for the Bible. The Old Testament is the period of preparation for Christ, the New Testament is the revelation of Christ. We need to remember however that the New Testament is the report of various people’s impressions of Jesus, it is not Jesus himself. Yes it is divinely inspired and it has caught the essential meaning of who Christ is but as Jones says: we always have the feeling that they were trying to tell the untellable and express the inexpressible.
All of life is an ongoing revelation of Christ. We see him revealed in the face of friend and stranger. We see his presence in God’s wonderful creation. We see his miracles in our daily provision, in our healing from illnesses and more than anything in loving acts towards one another. He existed before the Bible was written. His presence fills all things, and holds all creation together (Colossians 1:15-20). It is good for us to remember this and give thanks.
Living Christ I give you thanks for what you reveal,
Something fresh each morning, something new each evening.
You are a constant surprise to me,
I hold my breath as new things unfold in every moment,
My soul tingles with expectancy and I thank you.
I would love to know your thoughts on this.
I have just made 2 hunza pies. This is a great ways to use greens from the garden. I just wish that I had more tomatoes & squash to go in the quinoa. Here is the Hunza pie recipe. This is great hot or cold.
A great vegetarian dish for a picnic or camping trip. the vegetable mix can be adapted depending on what vegetables you have available and what you like.
– 2 cups whole wheat flour
– 1 cup wheatgerm
1 cup golden flax meal
– 6 ounces margarine or butter
– 1/2 cup milk or water (I sometimes use whey left over from making yoghurt)
– 1 teaspoon vegetable salt
– 25 stalks Swiss Chard or other garden greens ,leaves coarsely chopped
– 2 1/2 lb potatoes
– 1 1/4 lb cottage cheese
– 1 teaspoon mixed herbs (I like Italian herb mix)
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 1 teaspoon dried basil, or 1/4 cup fresh chopped
– 2 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 cup mushrooms, diced
– 1 cup squash (e.g. zucchini), chopped or 1 cup broccoli
2. Sift flour and salt into bowl. add husks in sifter to flour fold in wheatgerm and flax meal. Rub in margarine until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix with enough water to make a stiff dough. Knead lightly. Cut pastry into 4 pieces. Cover and place in refrigerator for 20 minutes. Roll out 1/4 of pastry on floured surface and place in base and up sides of a 9 inch pie dish. Do same with second pastry section. Spoon over cold vegetable mixture. Brush edge of pastry with water. Roll out remaining pastry in 2 pieces and place over pies. Trim edge with a sharp knife. Make slits in top. Bake in a hot oven (400) for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 375 and cook further 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown.
4. Peel potatoes and cut into cubes. Cook in salted water until tender. Drain.
5. Cook onions in a medium skillet with 1 tablespoon oil until brown. Add chopped mushrooms and squash. Cook a further 5 minutes. Add chard, garlic and herbs. Cook a further 5 minutes. Add cottage cheese and salt. Allow to cool.
SERVINGS: 12 from each pie
We love to eat it with hot sauce together with a tomato, basil, squash and mozzarella salad or with a quinoa salad.
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