Spiritual Nourishment

As part of our journey during the COVID-19 Crisis, each week our senior minister, Chess Cavitt, identifies a resource we can use to deepen our faith.  Below you will find a list and description.  Reach out to Chess with questions, comments and suggestions. 

Good Bible Maps

Geography isn’t my hobby, and I don’t consider myself a visual learner. I understand, however that many people love maps and are visual learners, and if you are one such person, you should be reading the Bible with a good set of maps handy. Lots of Bibles have a handful of maps in the back, but often not the one I need, or the one I wish existed. So this week I have included a link to A BUNCH of free (and good) maps that are very, if not oddly, specific. It would especially be a good bookmark on your phone so that you can use it at church/on the go. Maps like these are a great way to visualize and contextualize the Bible.

Thrifty Christian Reader

With over 2000 years of time, history has amassed a plethora of written materials about God, Christianity, and theology. The two biggest obstacles preventing me from reading all of it is time and cost. I can’t fix the issue of time (unless one of you can teach offer a speed reading crash course), but I can make a recommendation for helping with cost: thriftychristianreader.comThis site allows you to either follow on Facebook or subscribe to emails in which they highlight deals they have found across the web. They do all the legwork of tracking down the best deals so you don’t have to spend your time hunting. It is the perfect combination of great recommendations, quality works, cost efficiency (most of the recommendations are under $5), and convenience. The latest recommendation is a book that I personally love, Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God, by Brian Zahnd ($4.99 on Kindle right now). I don’t necessarily agree with everything in the book, but I appreciate the perspective and discussion of hard topics. Consider following Brian on Facebook or signing up for his emails and you and your wallet will be better off.


The Christian Classics Ethereal Library

Today I’d like to share with you one of my favorite free resources, The Christian Classics Ethereal Library, which has collected a vast amount of Christian writings. The website gives you free access to early Christian writings (such as the Didache), early Christian authors (such as Augustine’s City of God), and even later works (such as the writings of John Calvin). You can browse the site by topic, genre, author, title, and even chronologically. It’s a great site for expanding your knowledge and resources relating to church history and biblical studies. 

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.  

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.

Divine Hours

Last week, I recommended Phyllis Tickle’s book, Divine Hours, as a resource for prayer. I cannot urge you enough to consider purchasing this rich resource, linked here. I also recommended committing yourself to specific times of prayer, 9am, noon, and 9pm.
This week I would like to additionally suggest you spend some time reading and meditating upon the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). I suggest this as an act of prayer, not necessarily as a form of study. As you read, consider breaking the prayer into parts and spending time in prayer about each part. For example, you could devote an entire prayer to asking God to help you learn contentedness with daily bread – learning to be happy with what we have, reflecting on our cultural tendencies to want more, and trusting God to give us what we need (especially in contrast to what we want). I hope this suggestion will help you direct your time and thoughts if, like for me, sometimes that can be a challenging aspect of prayer.

Breath 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.

The Dead Sea Scrolls 

Even if you’ve been hiding in a cave, you’ve likely heard something about the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were also hiding in a cave until they were discovered by a boy throwing a rockbreaking a jar with scrolls inside. While the contents of the scrolls don’t contain an autograph of any of our biblical books, they are a priceless piece of history that has forever changed our understanding of biblical history. The scrolls aren’t all page turners (a large majority are detailed instructions on cleanliness and read like Leviticus), but there are several of the scrolls that contain bizarre stories, messianic expectations, and even treasure maps. The contents of the scrolls also contain some of the oldest copies of Hebrew Bible manuscripts, including a large majority of the prophets. So if you’ve ever heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls but never taken the time to read them, how about now? Here’s the link to a free full text copyOr if not now, at least save this link for the next time they are mentioned. You should always double check when someone references the scrolls and read them for yourself, especially considering many of them turn out to be forgeries 

History of the churches of Christ 

For you history buffs, I’d like to point you to a great resource on the history of the churches of Christ at ACU’s library website. Over the years, the special collections department of the library has collected many artifacts related to the history of the Stone-Campbell movement. From Alexander Campbell’s pulpit, hand-written letters, and so many books, the collection is a great resource for anyone wanting to learn more about the history of the churches of Christ. You can browse or search and uncover a lot. A quick search of Arlington even came up with this book that outlines a brief history of the founding of all the churches of Christ stretching from Virginia to Newfoundland (I’ve attached the preview of what it says about Arlington). I hope you will take the time to play around on the site and maybe learn some history. It might be a worthy rabbit hole in quarantine. 


St John’s Bible

The St. John’s Bible is a modern masterpiece. It was created by monks in the same style, and with the same tools as ancient manuscripts. The end result of decades worth of work is one of the most beautiful Bibles I have ever seen. Handwritten and illuminated, this copy of the Bible is a visually stunning and inspiring way to read scripture, which is important. For many of us, reading scripture can feel like a chore, but if we can find a way to read scripture that is more inspiring and enjoyable then we find reading scripture can be easier and transforming. The St. John’s Bible is an option for reading scripture that may be just the inspiration you need. You can see it virtually here and you can order volumes or prints from their site here. I hope that you take the time to look at this Bible, perhaps even finding your favorite verses and reflecting on them. The website also offers a lot of information on the making of the text and its history that I think many of you will find interesting.  

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. 

Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth

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.

Bible Reading

Below are the lectionary links I sent out last week, but I’ve also linked Bible Gateway, which offers many different methods of Bible reading schedules. They offer schedules for annual read-throughs of the entire Bible, chronological readings, and even an intensive 90-day schedule to read through the whole Bible (for those of you who have already perhaps run out of reading material). Play around on their site and you can also find email subscriptions for devotionals, and an audio Bible for those who prefer that method.  Weekly Lectionary, Daily Lectionary, Bible Gateway Reading Plans

The Way of the Heart

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.