Forward Today: How will you fall in love with God again?

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on Bishop Curry’s powerful sermon on love at last weekend’s Royal Wedding.


Dear friends in Christ,

It seems like everyone is talking about Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon at the royal wedding last weekend. When does a sermon ever become a news story? And yet, Bishop Curry has been on CNN, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and even TMZ to talk about his sermon. Why?
 
Certainly it has to do with Bishop Curry himself, who knows the power of media and who has the charisma to fill an entire room with contagious joy. But it’s more than that. It’s not really about Bishop Curry at all, I think. The reason the world has been captivated is that, last Saturday, some two billion people around the world heard a message of God’s love in Jesus Christ.

 

Other than the spectacle of “one of our own” appearing in surprising places, what does this mean for us? Surely, there’s more to be gained here than a few chuckles from a funny impression of Bishop Curry on Saturday Night Live.
 
It seems to me, we have two big opportunities. The first is to renew our own love of God and our neighbors. How can we once again fall in love with God and then share that love with others? And the second is this: how can we invite other people to know the transforming power of God’s love in Jesus Christ?
 
Not long ago, Forward Movement published a book that Melody Wilson Shobe and I have written. Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices offers one way to explore what a life rooted in love looks like. Our book suggests that knowing and sharing God’s love is rooted in the sacraments, in daily prayer, in service of others, and in sharing the Good News.
 
How will you fall in love with God again? How will you invite someone else to know the transforming power of love?

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale item is Broken. Just $13.50, today only!

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Discover a life rooted in the power of love

Dear friends in Christ,

On Saturday, the world was captivated by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s powerful sermon at the royal wedding. It’s gone viral, and that’s surely due to his core message. “This way of love is the way of life” and “We were made by a power of love. And our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love.”

But what does a live rooted in the love of Jesus Christ look like? Learn how to pray, live, work, and worship in the way of love as you read Walk in Love: Episcopal Beliefs & Practices by Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe.

 

Take a journey through The Book of Common Prayer, the Christian life, and basic beliefs of our faith, guided by two Episcopal priests. Walk through the liturgical year, the sacraments of the church, habits of daily prayer, and the teachings of Anglican Christianity. See how our prayer shapes our belief and our lives and how our beliefs lead us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

“Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe have written another winsome resource for Episcopal newcomers, veterans and everybody in between. Read it if you want to learn the relationship between our prayer, our belief, and our daily life. Read it to get re-rooted in the unique Anglican approach to the Way of Jesus. Just read it.” – The Rev. Canon Stephanie Spellers, Canon to the Presiding Bishop.

Buy direct from Forward Movement for just $22.

The book includes discussion questions, and bulk pricing is available.

Also available on the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and at the iTunes store.

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A summer reading giveaway

Our summer reading list features some of our most compelling and soul enriching titles of the year. Whether you’re reading poolside, on the bus ride to work, or at the airport, we hope whichever book you choose will add richness to your summer, and to your spiritual life.

During the week of May 21 – 25, we will be hosting a giveaway on our Facebook page, giving away one of these featured titles each day. Follow us on Facebook to participate.

Broken

In his book, Broken, Waller has engaged me like no other Christian book ever has. His work reads like a conversation with a trusted mentor: there is vulnerability, questions asked, hard truth, and sage advice. We all go through seasons of darkness and Waller, with great empathy, reminds us that to be Christian is to admit and even embrace our brokenness and turn to a Lord that loves us anyways.”

-Shannon Tabor, Amazon Review

 

The Social Justice Bible Challenge

Finally we have a book title that speaks directly to the essence of the Bible: The Social Justice Bible Challenge. This book goes a long way in helping those who read it to hear the Word of God and live it. You must give this book to your family and friends.”

-The Reverend Dr. Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones, Priest and Director, Core Values and Latin America & Caribbean Relations

 

Walk in Love

The most comprehensive, and comprehensible, guide to Episcopal faith and practice available. A perfect book for new comers, long-time members, and anyone in between.” (Read the entire review here.)

-Adam Trambley, rector at St John’s Episcopal Church, Sharon, PA

 

 

Are We There Yet?

I thought at first that this book would be good for my little Parish. Of course, I had to read it first. I discovered it was medicine for MY soul! Every contributor offered insights, wisdom, and grace. This year it was a pilgrimage just for me (with the wonderful company of the authors). Next year I will be in the company of many of my dearest spiritual friends.”

-Prof Larry, Amazon Review

 

Note to Self

This is a book many of us need. Here is ancient wisdom distilled into contemporary form to give shape and purpose to lives that are often noisy and without boundaries. Charles LaFond gently offers his own experience and the good sense of others to help us discern a better way. We are in his debt.”

-John Pritchard, Retired Bishop of Oxford

 

Forward Today: Come, Holy Spirit

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on the upcoming Day of Pentecost, and asks: “What do you think would happen if the Holy Spirit descended afresh on our church?”


Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday, we will celebrate the awe-full (as in full of awe) Day of Pentecost. Consider what it might have been like for those disciples. They saw tongues of fire. They heard people from other nations speaking in their own languages. It’s no wonder some bystanders wondered if people had been drinking too much.

By Хомелка [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

I worry that in our zeal to make Pentecost the capstone of the Easter season – to turn it into a big party – we have missed the awe of the day. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against parties, and I’m grateful for our realization that Easter is a season of 50 days. But I wonder, on this feast of the Holy Spirit’s descent, if we pay enough attention to the Holy Spirit.
 
Too often, I hear people saying, “The Holy Spirit was here” when things have gone their way or when an experience was delightful. And perhaps the Spirit was there. But a cursory glance at the scriptures suggests the Holy Spirit’s arrival is not always about warm, fuzzy feelings.
 
Sometimes the Holy Spirit pushes people to act boldly for the cause of the Gospel. I mean, to do things that risk life and limb. Sometimes the Holy Spirit convicts people of their sins, and the fruit of an encounter with the Spirit is repentance. The whole book of Acts is filled with stories of the Spirit’s power leading the church to open itself to the world around.
 
What do you think would happen if the Holy Spirit descended afresh on our church? Would we hear new things from those who are different from us? Would we be pushed in new, astonishing directions?

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale items are Prayers New and Old and Prayers for All Occasions.

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Forward Today: Springtime gratitude is not just for spring

In the new Forward Today, Scott reflects on spring, and asks: What keeps you from constant amazement?


Dear friends in Christ,

Spring is here. Technically, it’s been spring for several weeks, but at least in the part of the country where I live, we’re just now enjoying what might be called spring weather. The sky is blue, the flowers are blooming, people are outdoors more, and it’s the season of picnics.

 

For some reason, I’m especially grateful this year. Maybe it’s an usually long winter. Perhaps it’s the chaos of world news contrasted with the simple beauty of flowers. Whatever it is, I’m filled with gratitude for the goodness and beauty of creation. The thing is, two weeks ago, the world was just as amazing. But I wasn’t in a place to appreciate nature quite as much. I wonder what life would be like if my heart and mind were always open to the wonders of nature, to the beauty of creation?
 
And it’s the same for our neighbors, isn’t it? Do you ever meet someone and think, this person is amazing! It’s such a blessing to hear from this new person I’ve just met! The thing is, there’s an amazing person lurking inside everyone we meet. The question is whether or not our hearts and minds are open.
 
Today I’m praying for the grace and the wisdom to be amazed. It’s never a question of whether amazement is around. The question is always whether I’m open to seeing it.
 
What about you? Are you grateful for springtime? Are you grateful for the things you see and the people you meet? What keeps you from constant amazement?

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale item is Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book. Just $21 today only, and a great gift idea!

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Forward Today: Let’s celebrate Saint Mark the Evangelist

In the new Forward Today, Scott suggests a way to honor St. Mark: simply read his whole gospel.


Dear friends in Christ,

Today is the feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist. This is a major feast, a red-letter day! We remember and celebrate the author of the Gospel of Mark. You can read about Saint Mark and the fascinating history of how the church has remembered him over on Wikipedia. The story of his relics would make a great Hollywood movie.

 But that’s not my point today. I want to encourage you to celebrate this day in a particular way. For one thing, your local church may be offering Holy Eucharist for Saint Mark’s Day. Churches are, after all, meant to observe all the major feasts. Beyond that, there’s a simpler way to honor this evangelist. We can read the Gospel he wrote.

A lion on St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Photo: Scott Gunn

Mark is the shortest of the four gospels. You can read it in about an hour, maybe less. My friend from seminary, Bert Marshall, goes on the road reciting the entire gospel. On a sabbatical several years ago, Bert memorized the entire gospel. He travels to churches and tells the story, in one sitting. Having experienced this, I can tell you it’s gripping. Mark’s writing is compact; there is a high degree of urgency. Bert tells the story in a way that makes it seem like he is simply telling the story, and that’s the point of the gospel. We tell the story.

You don’t need a guest to come and read the gospel out loud. You could gather everyone in your home and read the gospel, out loud or silently. It’s a quick read. And it’s a wonderful way to savor the power of Jesus’ life, ministry, passion, death, and resurrection.

So, today, let us honor Saint Mark the evangelist as we read the great gift he has offered us in writing a gospel.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale item is all-ages coloring book Pathways of Faith.

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Forward Today: Good Shepherd, Good News

In the new Forward Today, Scott asks: “What would it mean to recover an authentic understanding of Jesus as a Good Shepherd?”


Dear friends in Christ,

This Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is sometimes called Good Shepherd Sunday. It’s no wonder. The lectionary brings us the account from the Gospel of John where Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd, and we sing or say Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
 
For many of the earliest Christians, this was the primary way to understand Jesus Christ and his ministry. One of the oldest known images of Christ, from around 240 CE, is of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. It was a powerful image then, and it still resonates with us today.

 

 

Most readers of this email live in urban areas, or at least in towns. We are, mostly, not agrarian people. So it should not surprise us that we have lost some of the potency of the image of the Good Shepherd. We might think that calling Jesus the Good Shepherd means that he is nice, or that he cares for us. While he certainly does care for us, it has nothing to do with being nice.
 
Shepherds lived difficult lives. They had to endure inclement weather. They faced threats from animal predators and those who would steal sheep. Their profession was dirty. Being a shepherd was quite the opposite of glamorous. In other words, understanding Jesus’ ministry as shepherd-like must surely mean that we understand his love for us as costly, willing to embrace danger, humble, and generous.
 
So this Sunday, try not to think of sheep as cuddly stuffed animals and Jesus as a nice person. Think instead of the great love Jesus shows for us, willing to lay down his life to protect and care for us sheep. We have a Good Shepherd, and that is very Good News, indeed.
 
Why do you think early Christians focused on Jesus as Good Shepherd, and why do you think we tend to portray him in other ways? What would it mean to recover an authentic understanding of Jesus as a Good Shepherd? How would this help us live as people who have heard and who bear Good News?

 

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director


Today’s featured sale item is Joy in Confession: Reclaiming Sacramental Reconciliation.

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Evangelism in Prison Ministry

The following post by Miriam McKenney appears in the Spring 2018 issue of Odyssey. You can find the whole issue here.

The inmates who write to us touch our hearts every day. We’re thankful that Forward Day by Day reaches our incarcerated brothers and sisters, so that they know that God deeply and eternally loves them. Your gifts spread that love throughout the United States and to countries around the world – we are thankful for you.

This story of evangelism started with a request from a woman in a Texas jail.

My name is Sharon and I am currently incarcerated in County Jail. I may be looking at some real time, like 2-10 years in prison. I am writing you today to see if you can send me the Pathways of Faith Coloring Book, and a Day by Day?? I would greatly appreciate it. I do not have any money to pay you. At one time I was very active in my church, seeing how my father was a Pentecostal preacher all my life. However I lost both my parents in 2015 and fell off into depression and here I sit due to my bad choices. I am on my way to recovery and building my relationship back with God. I thank you for anything you are able to send me.

We sent Sharon the materials, but she was moved to another facility, and may not have received them. This is not unusual in the prison system. Thankfully, Sharon didn’t give up. She reached out to us again from her new facility in Texas.

My name is Sharon and I am incarcerated in Texas. I am serving a fifteen-month sentence. While I am here I have entered the recovery program called Turning Points. I am also working on my relationship with God. See, my dad was a minister for the Assembly of God all my life. Well I have lost him and my mother both to a better life with God in 2015. So I am now doing this time alone – well with me and God. I am writing to ask if you could please send me a Pathways of Faith Coloring Book and a Saint Augustine Prayer Book? Anything you could send me to get closer to God and help me while I am doing the time would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and God Bless.

We sent her the materials, and thought that was that. But a couple of weeks later, we received this letter from another woman in the same prison.

My name is Amber. I am incarcerated and I would love to send my child the Pathways of Faith Coloring Book. May you please send me a Pathways of Faith all ages coloring book. Please and God bless.

Her letter included nine additional women’s addresses. A day or two later, we received yet another letter:

Hello my name is Robin. Some of my cell mates received the faith based coloring book you have sent them. Me and my bunky are wanting to receive the same book. Thank you, God Bless.

She listed her address along with those of five other women. We’ve mailed 38 copies of Pathways of Faith to that Texas prison to date. We feel blessed to share something that will bring joy and light into the lives of these women and their families. Often, a mailing from us is the only touch an inmate has from outside prison. Your generosity allows us to say yes to every request like this we receive. Thank you so much for helping these incarcerated women and their families experience a relationship with God.

Can you donate today, so that we can continue to give the gift of prayer to those in need?

Creating Your Rule of Life: Q & A with Charles LaFond

The following interview with Charles LaFond is from the Spring 2018 issue of Odyssey, and was conducted by Miriam McKenney. You can find the whole issue here.

Charles LaFond believes that a Rule of Life is so important, everyone should write one. An ancient method for building soul memory, a Rule of Life offers reminders to ourselves of the person we hope to be. “It’s like a series of Post-it Notes stuck by my breakfast each day,” he observes. “Tuesday: Today, remember what you believe about rest. Wednesday: Today, remember what you believe about friendship. Thursday: Today, remember what you believe about money. A Rule of Life really works.”

Charles’s passion to share the powerful results a Rule of Life can bring led him to write Note to Self: Creating Your Guide to a More Spiritual Life. “I believe we each have a mini-monk or mini-nun, or some of both, inside us clamoring for this kind of structure and practice.” Read on to learn more about Charles, how he came to create his own Rule of Life, and why he’s so passionate about you living a better life through using your own personal Rule.

Why do people need a Rule of Life? How could writing one help me?

Hiking in the forest is a great love of mine and of my black lab Kai. It is so easy to wander off a path when hiking. Where I hike there are stapled ribbons on trees to mark the path. Let’s say I am on the blue trail; passing many other trails – red, yellow, white. My trail, the blue trail, curves ahead but I keep walking straight, neglecting to turn. Only by looking up and noticing the ribbons marking the trail are now red am I able to see that I am on the wrong path.

A Rule of Life is like those ribbons on the hiking trail – reminders of my pathway, the one that leads to where I want to go. Many people use New Year’s resolutions to establish a priority. They work for a while, but often they fade like smoke from a burned out fire. It would be like having trail markers on every tree for the first half mile and then forgetting to make the trail beyond that, without the markers along and at the end of the trail, the early ones are not much use in the long picture of the hike. The hiker is sure for a while, and then lost.

A Rule of Life is an ancient practice used by groups of people – Christians, Jews, people of all religions and of none – to codify their longings for their life and then to remind them daily of the markers on the pathway of their life so that they stay on their path and do not wander off onto other paths with other markers for other people.

My Rule of Life helps me by serving as a catalyst for me to think about my life. What thirty or so things, if I get them right most of the time, would set me on a path to a good life? Once I have that list, then what do I think about each one? What is my own vision that states my longing for a good life around that subject? Once these one-page chapters are written, how might I read one a day so as to remind myself every thirty days of these important longings I have for my life?

What made you decide to write a Rule of Life?

A light bulb went off in my head as a teenager touring the great British cathedrals. They were often founded and built as monasteries. I was always given a map of the cathedral complex when the docent took my money for my self-guided tour. And there, so often, on the map, was a “chapter house” or “chapter room.” When I visited that part of the cathedral complex I wondered why this round room existed. Why is it round? Why is it there when it is only used so occasionally? Why is it so rigorously and beautifully decorated? I learned that the monks and nuns wrote a Rule together and then each day they would go into a room, sit in a circle, and read, out loud, one chapter from this Rule as a way to remind them of what their hopes were for their life as a community and their work as a religious.

Over the course of thirty years I wondered: what if every one of us could write a Rule and read a daily chapter, or page, to help us maintain a road map when there are so many mismarked and dangerous roads out there in life? So, I wrote my Rule and then lived by it. I spent three years in a monastery, and decided to write this book to encourage others in imagining, writing and living by a Rule themselves.

When did you begin writing about a Rule of Life?

I began working with Rules and leading retreats on them in my seminary years, fifteen years ago. As I taught more classes and led more retreats on the subject, I began to outline the chapters of a book. Leading a diocesan retreat for clergy on the subject really enthused me and so I began to write in great earnest and finished the book in winter of 2017.

What was your favorite part of writing this book?

I loved the simple process of writing. I imagined one person – her name was Mikalia. I wrote the book as if I was writing her a letter in answer to the question she asked one day at a retreat: “Charles, how would I write a Rule of life?” I loved her question, so I wrote the book for her and for people like her.

Where did you go for inspiration?

As John Philip Newell says so beautifully in the foreword of the book, we get our inspiration from our time with God. We take all the hurts and wounds, questions and answers, ponderings and wonderings to God in our prayer time the way a person wears clothes into an event or the way a child brings a parent a treasure chest full of a frog and a string and a pebble. God then sits with us listening as we sit with God listening. Most days, the result is the indwelling of Spirit and the inner expansion and awareness of God.

What is your writing process like?

I write best in the morning. I rise, after carefully working to get 8 hours of sleep, at 5:00 am. I sit in meditation, then walk, and then write before going to work raising money for people experiencing homelessness. I try to average about 1,000 words per day.

Where do you typically write?

I move between three locations. I write at my desk, an old secretary owned by many members of my family from many years back. It has a case of my favorite books and they provide inspiration to me…Dickens, E. M. Forster, Trollope, Merton and others. I also work at a desk with a larger screen and in my reading chair. I write letters on a 19th century lap-desk that I tremendously enjoy for the ritual of pen, ink and paper.