Spiritual Homework April 29

April 29, 2020

Hello, church!

This week I have included the servant profile form, another resource from The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, some information about our weekly worship, a link to a unique and worthwhile speech this Friday at Harding and resources from Linda for your children. I hope you take the time to work through all of this information, but more than that, I hope that you are taking care of yourself spiritually during this quarantine. I hope you are well, and I pray for you often. Please let me know if there is anything that you need.

Peace,

Chess

Servant Profile

Yesterday, the Elders sent out an email with a servant profile form for you to fill out. It is important that we not only attend church but that we also be church. If there is anything that we have learned from quarantine and COVID-19, it is the importance of being church. Please take the time to read the email from the Elders and to fill out the form so that when we come back from quarantine we can continue our work of being church together.

This week’s Memory Verse

“He had been known to them in the breaking of the bread.”  – Luke 24:35

This verse is the culmination of the road to Emmaus story and the focal point of this week’s word of encouragement video. We see Christ in our communion practices of bread and drinking the fruit of the vine, which is something I think artist Sieger Koder captures well in his painting of the last supper, which I’ve linked here for you to see. In the painting, Christ’s shadow is a cross over the bread and his face is reflected in the cup. Take a look at the painting, and let me know what other ways you see Christ.

Prayer Labyrinths

There is a very old tradition of walking labyrinths while you pray. In many old cathedrals you will even find a labyrinth mapped out on the floor as you enter. There is nothing magical about walking a labyrinth, but they do take time. I often hear that time, or the lack of time, is a hindrance to prayer. Therefore, walking a labyrinth while you pray makes sense as it requires intentional time set aside for prayer. You have to find a labyrinth, go there, and take the time to walk it. It will be hard to justify going to a labyrinth during quarantine, but perhaps you could find or make your own. Turn your neighborhood, yard, or garden into its own maze and walk it while you pray. For more on this, I again recommend The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook and its entry on prayer labyrinths, which I’ve copied and linked here.

Worship Discussion Questions

Each week we send out an order of worship that all of our small groups can use at their discretion. Some groups use all of it and others use some. Part of what we send out is a set of discussion questions that relate to the theme and scripture readings that go with the order of worship. In an effort to help you better prepare for worship, I will start including these scripture readings and discussion questions here for you to review before your time of worship.

Worship for May 3, 2020

Scriptures: Ps 23; John 10:1-10; Acts 2:42-47; 1 Pet 2:19-25

Question for Reflection: Acts 2:42–47 describes what life was like in the early church. How do these words guide today’s church?

Maikon Speaks at Harding

On Friday, May 1st, at 11am Eastern time, Maikon Borba will be delivering his senior speech at Harding University (via Zoom), and you are invited to watch.  Arlington first met and fell in love with Maikon many years ago as he came from Brazil to DC as a young adult to work as a nanny.  The whole time he was here he spent his free time volunteering with our youth program—an experience that helped him formulate a dream of sharing Christ to Portuguese speaking people.  After many years back home in Brazil teaching English as a second language, he decided to pursue that dream.  As a church we have helped support Maikon and his wife Tati as they trained in Bible and missions at Harding.  We will continue to support them as they move to Miami and open a mission to the large Brazilian community there. Please join us in supporting Maikon by attending virtually this speech at Harding.

https://zoom.us/j/862112912

Kids’ Resources

https://www.arlingtonfamily.org/10-things11276-application/

https://www.arlingtonfamily.org/lord-made-heaven-dino-image/

https://www.arlingtonfamily.org/t-rex-image/

 

Previous Links

Below are the links to resources I have mentioned in previous emails for your continued reference.

 

Weekly Lectionary

Daily Lectionary

Bible Gateway Reading Plans

Phyllis Tickle’s, Divine Hours

The Way of the Heart, by Henri Nouwen

Breath Prayers

Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, by Walter Brueggemann

The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

The Discernment of Spirits and workbook by Timothy Gallagher


Read more...

Spiritual Homework April 15

April 22

Hello, church!

In this week’s spiritual nourishment, I’d like to offer you several resources that can help you discover some potentially new spiritual disciplines. The time we are spending working from home gives us an opportunity to try new things, and rather than trying to cut your own hair, I suggest you consider picking up some new spiritual disciplines to help you grow closer to God. I hope you seriously consider investing in some of the resources below, and if you do, please share what you are doing with one another, or consider asking someone or your small group to join you as you try out a new discipline. As always, let me know if there is something you need, something I should include in future emails, or just reach out to say hi if you’d like.

Peace,

Chess

This week’s Memory Verse

“Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion, your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.”  – 1 Peter 5:8

This verse is one of, if not the, most popular verses about the devil, but it is also a reminder to train. It was common in the epistles to speak of our faith not only as a walk or journey, but also as training. Athletic metaphors are ripe in the New Testament, and they encourage us to train ourselves spiritually, and rigorously at that. 1 Peter 5:8 falls in line with these athletic metaphors by reminding us to discipline ourselves as a way of rebuffing evil and temptation.


Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

The greatest resource I can recommend on spiritual disciplines is The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. This book is a compendium of a wide variety of disciplines that are all biblically based. With each listed discipline, the author offers scripture, a brief explanation of the practice, and reflection questions, and suggested methods of practice. Each entry is concise and accessible, and the book as a whole offers a lifetime of spiritual growth. I have posted and excerpt from this book on the topic of unplugging as a spiritual discipline here in the congregant portion of our website. 

The Discernment of Spirits

I first read The Discernment of Spirits by Timothy Gallagher four years ago, and not a day has gone by that I have not thought of and applied something from it to my life. It has been a companion and a guide in my spirituality that has trained me to see my life from a different angle. Specifically, the author lays out fourteen principles for the discernment of spirits in an attempt to categorize and understand the forces acting on our life (both mundane and extraordinary) into either consolations or desolations. The main point being that everything in your life either draws you closer to God or pulls you further away, and understanding what is acting upon your life, how it is acting, and how to react can help you grow closer to God. It isn’t the most entertaining read, but its worth its weight in gold. There is also a workbook I recommend if you are going to do this by yourself, or if you just really like workbooks. If you would like a digested blog overview of this book, you can find it in three parts here: part one, part two, and part three.

 

A Reference for Parents, an Activity for Kids

For parents: Reducing family stress and anxiety amidst COVID-19

For children: Two new scavenger hunts!

 

Previous Links

Below are the links to resources I have mentioned in previous emails for your continued reference.

 

Weekly Lectionary

Daily Lectionary

Bible Gateway Reading Plans

Phyllis Tickle’s, Divine Hours

The Way of the Heart, by Henri Nouwen

Breath Prayers

Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, by Walter Brueggemann


Read more...

Spiritual Homework Easter Week

April 15, 2020 

Hello, church!  

Happy Easter! This week’s suggested spiritual nourishment focuses on prayer. Rather than encouraging you to keep talking to yourself in isolation (no judgment), I am encouraging you to talk to God. It might look the same as talking to yourself, but it is way more productive and meaningful. #Hannah #1Samuel1 

But seriously, let’s continue what we started on Good Friday, and make this a whole week of dedicated prayer. Our hearts are heavy with many concerns, situations, sadness and grief, and we would be wise to turn those over to God. Below you’ll find some suggestions for what to discuss in your time spent with God and some resources. In addition to the new resources, please don’t forget about some of the ones I highlighted in previous emails, such as The Divine Hours 

Peace, 

Chess 

 

Good Friday Prayer Meeting Notes 

This past Friday, many of us met virtually for a time of prayer, and I’d like to share my notes from the meeting for those of you who could not attend, and as a suggestion for us all to continue praying about this week. There are some specific requests and some broader categories for you to pray over. 

 

  • Earnestine’s brother-in-law, Roosevelt with a note of praise that Roosevelt is off the ventilator and has received a positive prognosis, but has a long road ahead 
  • Jay and Linnea’s new baby, Eliana 
  • Daniel and Aileen and Devin and Aimee as the births of their babies approaches  
  • Jennifer daughter of Galen and Carolyn
  • Diana’s cousin’s family and Debbie’s friend and family who are all COVID positive
  • Danny and Frasier (friends of Meghan) 
  • Donnis’s friend needs surgery 
  • Marvin and other immunocompromised people
  • Jennifer P’s family, particularly her brother
  • Health 
      • Continued healing 
      • Protection for all, especially immune compromised, elderly, new babies, etc. 
      • Strength and health of care givers 
      • Wisdom for those leading the fight against COVID-19 
      • Those who are grieving losses 
  • “Front Line” Workers 
      • All those working to keep us going, providing medical care, and working on treatments 
      • Some of ours might include: Maravet, Sasha, April, Jay
      • All who are working in front-line jobs to keep us fed, supplied, safe, healthy, etc and for those working or volunteering in food banks and shelters to help those in need 
  • Church 
      • Globally, and our congregation 
      • Wisdom for appropriate responses to our situation 
      • Thankfulness for virtual worship 
      • Thankfulness for all of you! 
  • Employment 
      • Those who are unemployed 
      • Essential employees 
      • Those who have had to let employees go 
  •  

This week’s Memory Verse  

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.  – John 20:29 

This week’s verse comes out of the story of Thomas doubting the resurrection of Christ. Having seen and touched the wounds of Jesus, Thomas believes, and Jesus declares blessings on those who can believe without seeing and touching like Thomas was able to do. In times of crisis it can be difficult to remain firm in our belief, but this verse reminds us not only of the possibility of believing without seeing, but also of God’s blessings on those who do believe without evidence. Consider using this memory verse as a breath prayer, and if you missed out on my introduction to breath prayers, please see the link below. 

Book Recommendation 

Walter Brueggemann is a renowned scholar of the Hebrew Bible, professor, and author. As such, he is superbly gifted at prayer, and over the years, he collected the prayers he offered before he would teach. The first such collection of prayers is Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth, and it is my recommendation this week. The book is full of evocative prayers that offer comfort, challenge, poetry and peace when our own words seem to fall short. I highly recommend that you check this book out, but in the meantime, here is a sample prayer: 

 

We are Baffled 

Easter Tuesday/April 17, 2001 
                             (Page 162) 

Christ is Risen 

He is risen indeed! 

We are baffled by the very Easter claim we voice. 

Your new life fits none of our categories. 

We wonder and stew and argue, 

and add clarifying adjectives like “spiritual” and “physical.” 

But we remain baffled, seeking clarity and explanation, 

we who are prosperous, and full and safe and tenured. 

We are baffled and want explanations. 

 

But there are those not baffled, but stunned by the news, 

stunned while at minimum wage jobs; 

stunned while the body wastes in cancer; 

stunned while the fabric of life rots away in fatigue and despair; 

stunned while unprosperous and unfull 

and unsafe and untenured… 

Waiting only for you in your Easter outfit, 

waiting for you to say, “Fear not, it is I.” 

Deliver us from our bafflement and our many explanations. 

Push us over into stunned need and show yourself to us lively. 

Easter us in honesty; 

Easter us in fear; 

Easter us in joy, 

and let us be Eastered. Amen. 

 

Previous Links 

Below are the links to resources I have mentioned in previous emails for your continued reference.  

Weekly Lectionary 

Daily Lectionary 

Bible Gateway Reading Plans 

Phyllis Tickle’s, Divine Hours 

The Way of the Heart, by Henri Nouwen 

Breath Prayers 

 

Activities for Children 

Here are links to three activities for the kids this week.  In keeping with our ongoing focus on prayer, the first is simple prayer activity for your children. 

Family Quarantine Prayer  

Inventor Scavenger Hunt 

Book Scavenger Hunt  


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Spiritual Assignments Easter Week

Spiritual Assignments for the week leading to Easter

April 8, 2020 

THIS WEEK’S SPIRITUAL HOMEWORK…AND A PRAYER MEETING 

Hello, church!  

I hope everyone is doing well and staying healthy. Shout-out to those of you who wrote back with practical ideas for living out jubilee! Many of you wrote back with great suggestions like prayer walks, cleaning up litter, and ways to mend broken relationships. I’m so thankful for all of you and your creativity.  

With Easter just around the corner, this week’s homework will look a little different. I would like to encourage all of us to take the opportunity to walk day by day with Jesus to the cross. As such, some of the “homework” below is arranged by days of the week. And while I’m on the topic of Easter, I would ask that you try to keep as many of your Easter traditions as possible, both for the psychological value of keeping routines and also for the purpose of remembering the importance of Easter in general. Dress up for worship on Sunday, egg hunt, have a nice meal, perhaps you even celebrate Passover. Whatever Easter normally is to you and your family, let’s make sure to keep it that way, especially this year. 

Below you’ll also see announcement of a Good Friday Prayer Meeting we’re hosting via Zoom. I hope you’ll join us for that. 

I’ve also included a few new resources as usual, and Linda’s resources for our kids is also listed below. She has put together a lot of useful materials that we think your kids and you will love, so check it out below. 

Peace, 

Chess 
 

Good Friday Prayer Meeting 

Amid rising infection rates and deaths from COVID-19, this is likely to be a particularly hard week for many of us. Among our congregants, several have been touched by the virus, either directly or indirectly, and are gravely concerned about themselves or a family member or a friend. Some of our number are not able to work and are anxious about finances. Others of us may be healthy but feeling the weight of isolation are just heartsick about what we’re all enduring right now. Seems to me that prayer is a good and helpful response in this circumstance.  

That’s why we’ve planned a prayer meeting for this Friday evening at 7:30pm. It’s an opportunity for you to bring your requests, to share what’s on your heart with God, and for us all to pray together for God’s grace in this crisis. As we do with Sunday virtual worship groups, we’ll use Zoom for the prayer meeting, but you can also call in by phone if you don’t wish to connect on your computer. Details are below. Please join us.  

Time: Apr 10, 2020 07:30 PM EDST 

Join Zoom Meeting: Request Connection Information; Congregants can find that information here

 

This week’s Memory Verse:  

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 
2 Corinthians 5:21 

Perhaps one of the most succinct and theologically rich summarizations of the cross, this verse has always inspired me personally. Not only does this verse describe the physical events of the cross, it also explains the motivation behind the event, namely, that we might become the righteousness of God. It has been said similarly by many throughout history as, “God became human so that humans might become God.” The implication is not that we actually become God, rather, that just as God became like us, through the cross we might become like God. It is the unity and oneness that Jesus prayed for in John 17. 

Thursday (4/9): Texts: John 13:1-30, Matt 26:17-30 

The Thursday before Easter goes by many names, but typically is called Maundy Thursday. On this particular day, Jesus partook of the Passover with the disciples and washed their feet. I would encourage you to join in these actions with one another. Take communion with your family or small group, or even by yourself – knowing that you take it as a reminder of the biblical event. Consider celebrating Passover, not as a command, but as a way to immerse yourself in the last supper. Here is a link to a complete Passover seder, a step-by-step guide through the meal, and if you don’t have all of the ingredients, just make do with what you have. Finally, consider washing the feet of those at home with you as a reminder of the humility exhibited by Jesus and the teaching of the first being last and the last being first. Walk through the events of the day, focusing on the humility, sacrifice, and uncertainty that would have been in the room all those years ago. 

Friday (4/10): Text: Matt 27:1-61 

On Friday, typically called Good Friday, I ask that you consider reading through this story as close to three in the afternoon as possible, but if not at three than at any point on Friday. As you read, notice the emotions of the different people in the story. Read yourself into their shoes asking yourself how they would feel, what they would see, how they interpreted the events of the day. Also, try to read the story of the crucifixion without thinking ahead to Easter. Allow the reality of the death of Jesus to become the focal point of your devotional time and give yourself the space to grieve such a horrific event. 

Saturday (4/11): As the disciples gathered together in secret, hiding for their lives in the wake of the death of Jesus, it has become tradition for some Christians to spend Saturday evening in silent watchfulness. Consider staying away the whole night in silent prayer, waiting for the sun to rise and bring with it the news of resurrection, but if the whole night is asking too much or you are not able, try to find some time on Saturday to spend in silent reflection on the death of Jesus and the hope of resurrection. Alternatively, consider waking up before the sunrise and using that time of waiting in silent prayer. 

Book Recommendation: I have mentioned this to some of you before, but for those of you who I haven’t pushed this book onto yet, I ask you to consider reading The Way of the Heart, by Henri Nouwen. The author is a unique and wonderful man, whom I recommend you research on your own, and the book is a short read on the importance of solitude, silence, and prayer. As we are spending time in a forced isolation, this book is a timely read that can repurpose our isolation as a spiritual discipline. I cannot speak highly enough of or recommend a book as strongly as this one. 

 

Previous Links: Below are the links to resources I have mentioned in previous emails for your continued reference. 

 

Weekly Lectionary 

Daily Lectionary 

Bible Gateway Reading Plans 

Phyllis Tickle’s, Divine Hours 

 

Activities for Children 

You’ll find three great Easter-oriented activities for the kids on the links below.  

Read more...

Spiritual Homework Week 3

Spiritual Assignments Week Three

April 1, 2020

Hello, church!

In this week’s video that went out on Sunday, I mentioned this being an opportune time to practice some jubilee. Specifically, the challenge was to find ways to extend forgiveness to others and to “rest the land” by tending to and spending time in our environments. This week’s “homework” will follow these themes, and I hope you will take the time to nurture yourself spiritually. As always, if there’s something you’d like to see added, something I’ve missed, or if you’d just like to check in or chat, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Peace,

Chess

P.S. At the end of this document, you’ll find a fun activity – the ACOC Quarantine Challenge for Kids – provided for families by Linda Hlasta.

 

Memory verse: Luke 4:18-19

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

This week’s verse is from Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Nazareth, and while he isn’t directly quoting from Leviticus 25, most scholars agree that he has jubilee in mind. It is important to notice that as Jesus imagines jubilee, it looks like good news to the poor, captive, blind, and oppressed. As you recite and meditate on these words this week, I encourage you to ask where you fit into this vision of jubilee. Are we one of those for whom this is good news? Do we actively bring this news to such people? Are we in any part a hindrance of jubilee to others?


Bible Reading:
I have relocated the links to the lectionary, as well as all previous links, to the bottom of this doc so that we can build a list of resources there. This week, however, I encourage you to read and re-read Leviticus 25. I know it is a technical and kind of clunky read, but please sit with it this week and read it several times. When you feel like you have a handle on it, I’d like you to envision what jubilee would look like right now and right that out. Take the list you brainstorm and consider turning it into action and please share it with me so that I can compile all our ideas and send that out. We are all looking for ways to be good neighbors during this crisis, and I think we can help and inspire one another.


Prayer:
Please consider joining us as we commit to prayer at 9am, noon, and 9pm as this crisis continues. Additionally, this week, I’d like to suggest you look into and consider practicing breath prayers. Breath prayers are an extremely old Christian practice of matching scripture to the rhythms of our breath as a way to pray. The most common version is to take the cry of Bartimaeus from Mark 10:47 and pray it with our breathing: “Jesus, son of David” on an inhale, and “have mercy on me!” on an exhale. This type of prayer steeps you thoroughly in scripture and lets your very life tune itself to the rhythm of scripture.  I recommend this know because, as with most breathing exercises, this practice will also have the side effects of bring a sense of calm, reducing anxiety, and helps to center and focus our minds and hearts on God. As many of us feel a growing sense of pressure, worry, and uncertainty, this practice can be a very valuable resource. For more on this, here’s a blog I wrote on the topic.

 

Previous Links: Below are the links to resources I have mentioned in previous emails for your continued reference.

Weekly Lectionary

Daily Lectionary

Bible Gateway Reading Plans

Phyllis Tickle’s, Divine Hours.

 

The ACOC Quarantine Challenge for Kids: Here are 20 activities for kids of most ages to do without their parents: https://www.arlingtonfamily.org/quarantine-challenge-for-kids/. May they provide fun for the children … and maybe provide a welcomed break(?) for moms and dads.


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