We’re getting really excited about the Good Book Club, the churchwide initiative to read together from the Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts next Lent-Easter. But don’t listen to us tell it… Here’s Presiding Bishop Curry offering an invitation to the GBC!
We’re excited to announce the Good Book Club—a church-wide invitation to all Episcopalians to read Luke and Acts during Lent-Easter 2018. Participants in the Good Book Club will begin reading Luke the Sunday before Lent, February 11, 2018, and finish up the Book of Acts on the Day of Pentecost, May 20, 2018. We hope you’ll join us, and the many churches, individuals and organizations who will be a part of this special project.
Several organizations have already announced partnerships with Forward Movement on the Good Book Club, including Episcopal Church Foundation, ChurchNext, Episcopal Migration Ministries, and The Episcopal Church and Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry. Partner organizations are creating resources or encouraging their constituents to take part in the effort. A list of current partners can be found here.
The Good Book Club website (goodbookclub.org) lists the daily readings, as well as available resources to support people as they read the scriptures. Resources also will be available in Spanish at clubbiblico.org.
And a note to Forward Day by Day readers: Forward Day by Day will use Good Book Club readings during Lent-Easter 2018, instead of the usual daily lectionary.
For now, you can sign up for updates or learn more about partnering with us at goodbookclub.org. We hope you’ll read along with us, and Episcopalians around the globe!
We hope you’ve been enjoying this month’s Forward Day by Day meditations by Ann Rose. We love hearing more about writers’ processes, so we recently checked in with Ann, who shared more about her writing and her daily practice, plus some wonderful stories that didn’t make it into Forward Day by Day. Enjoy!
Do you have a special place you write, or do you just write at your desk or wherever the mood strikes you?
I have a chair in our living room, across from a chest with two pottery oil candles that my husband made. Two icons are on the wall above the chest (“The Holy Trinity” and “The Dormition” icons). That is where I start each morning, candles lighted, with reading, meditation, journaling, and prayer. When I’m working on a writing project, like the Forward Day by Day meditations, I tend to sit in that chair to think, gather ideas, jot them down, and ponder them.
Sometimes I write the first draft of the meditation by hand, sitting in that chair. At some point, I move to my computer in our home office at the end of the family room, and continue to work on it. Three days a week, I teach part-time at a seminary (composition and literature). I keep index cards in my purse, and when an idea strikes me for a meditation, I jot it down at the next red light or between classes so that I won’t forget it before I get back home to my chair or computer.
Did you have a favorite meditation you wrote this month? If so, why? Conversely, did you struggle with any of the readings in particular?
One of my favorite meditations for June is the one for Friday the 16th. I didn’t grow up in a home with strong Christian teaching, but what I thought I understood from the general culture was that God wanted strong, continually joyful people, and that God showed us the right path and the best choices but wasn’t involved in a particularly intimate way with us. When I spent a year in the Ignatian Retreat in Everyday Life about 10 years ago (and after that became a co-facilitator of the retreat), I learned to put myself imaginatively into the scenes of Bible stories and later to continue the conversation with Jesus about what was happening in my interior life. Out of that came my discovery that I was loved when I wasn’t either strong or joyful, and that I could afford to be transparent with myself and with God about desolate times.
That discovery has been incredibly important to me. The meditation on June 16th is based on that idea, and the meditation on June 9th works with that theme also, using George Herbert’s lines about the broken pieces of our hearts along with our tears becoming an altar for God. Someday maybe I’ll get the chance to write on Psalm 56:8, where the psalmist asks God to “put my tears in your bottle.” The image of God’s caring so deeply about our tears that he collects them in a precious tear bottle is a profound as well as a beautiful image to me.
I don’t think I struggled with the readings so much as I struggled when I wanted to use icons or other Christian art in my meditations. Icons are important spiritual tools for me, and I also love much Western medieval Christian art in its simplicity and almost primitive nature. But it’s difficult to describe a piece of art in such a way that the meditation has the force and clarity that I feel when I am looking at the icon or fresco or oil painting or statue. In the June meditations, I used two icons (“The Holy Trinity” and “Pentecost”) and two pieces of 11th century Western art (the illuminated manuscript of Jesus in the boat in the storm and the fresco in the Bayeux Cathedral of the crucified Jesus in God’s lap), and with those illustrations that touch me so deeply, I struggled to put them into words effectively.
What do you do when you have writers’ block? How do you unstick yourself?
My usual plan is to work through the month of readings, finishing one mediation before I start thinking about the next one. On the day that I finish a draft of one, that night I read the next set of scripture readings before I go to bed, because I find that sometimes my mind keeps working during the night and I wake up with thoughts about a reading that I wasn’t conscious of when I went to sleep. The following morning, I re-read the scripture passages and go through the day trying to keep them in mind and thinking about which one draws me the most to write about it. If I do that for a couple of days and nothing strikes me as a good choice, then I move on to the next day and figure that when I eventually get back to the skipped day, one or more of the readings will jump off the page as being good material for a meditation. I do surround all of this in prayer, praying that I will be able to choose verses and stories such that many readers will relate to what I’m writing and find the meditation meaningful and helpful.
How has developing a daily devotional practice changed your life and relationships?
My daily devotional life has had a long history of development. I was drawn to start a faith journey in high school through the organization Young Life, which offered, along with large, enthusiastic meetings, small Bible study groups that were so good that I sailed through Old Testament and New Testament courses at Duke, already knowing much of the material and feeling appreciative of an academic approach to the Bible, instead of threatened by it (which many of my classmates seemed to feel). Young Life kids were encouraged to have a daily “quiet time” that consisted of “listening to God” through reading scripture, and “talking to God” through prayer. Years later I would find that dividing scripture from prayer no longer worked for me, but at the time, it was a good starting place. I became an active Presbyterian in high school and college, and the church I attended just a block from my college campus continued to instill in me the need for daily devotional practice as well as weekly Bible study at the church.
I kept up my “quiet time” until I had a full-time college teaching job and two young children, both of whom were juvenile diabetics, so our mornings were all about medical things and I struggled to keep on top of it all. After a plateau of about 10 years, my husband and I had become Episcopalians and we both went to Cursillo. Part of my renewal experience was to return to my daily prayer and study time. I remember it felt not like a discipline but like coming home.
As time went on, I began to read about and try prayer approaches like Lectio Divina and Praying with Scripture, both approaches combining scripture with prayer rather than separating them. Then about 10 years ago, I did the Ignatian Retreat in Everyday Life for a year, and that nailed down the Ignatian way of “praying with scripture” for me. I co-facilitated the retreat for a couple of years after I made my own retreat, and now I am co-facilitating it again on a regular basis.
How has a daily devotional practice changed my life and relationships? For me, it is a spiritual lifeline. It’s not a commitment that I feel I have to keep, but a time I relish to start the day. One of the key things in Ignatian spirituality is to identify the “consolations” and also the “desolations” of the day. I do this each morning for the previous day, and jot them down, imagining Jesus sitting with me and sharing both the things I’m grateful for and the things that seem dark, discouraging, frustrating, etc. Then I take an index card and jot down what I think I need to do that day. I try to make this a prayerful experience.
I used to get distracted from my prayer time as things would pop into my mind about the day ahead. So I decided to incorporate the day ahead into my prayer time instead. After making the index card for the upcoming day, I spend some time with Ignatian praying with scripture (I use the book Sacred Space, which is compiled every year by the Jesuits in Ireland), sitting in silence, and then reading. Depending on how long I have, I might read the online mediation from Frederick Buechner, the daily reading from Forward Day by Day, and a few pages from whatever author I’m currently reading–Richard Rohr, Barbara Brown Taylor, Anne Lamott, Cynthia Bourgeault, Joan Chittister, Rowan Williams, etc.
Now that I’m not working full-time, I have a much longer time in the morning on the days that I’m not heading for the seminary campus. I don’t know how I would be if I didn’t give myself this time of sensing that I’m sitting in God’s presence and pondering, reading, jotting down consolations and desolations from the previous day, listening, and just being silent, but I know it has helped me be healthier both spiritually and emotionally for a long, long time.
What’s one thing you’d like to share with the readers/FDD community that you might not have gotten to share in your meditations?
The older I get (I was born when my father was overseas serving in World War II), the more I become aware that the “teachers of deep things” in my life have been not only the predictable people like parents, college professors, and clergy. Some of those people have been profound teachers, but in addition, my “teachers of deep things” have been my own children, my husband, ordinary friends, students in my classrooms, certain scenes that have given me glimpses of the kingdom of God, several dreams, art, creation, and even architecture (I’m thinking of Durham Cathedral in northern England as I mention architecture).
I’m sure that if I revised that list a few weeks from now, I would want to add many more categories. Just last week I started making a list of specific grace-filled lessons that I had either learned or been reminded of through other people, scenes, art, creation, and so on. I am going to use part of my time this summer to work on my own personal writing project about these lessons and the way they came to me. The Ignatian perspective of “finding God in all things” has helped direct me to try to be increasingly open to experiencing God through all sorts of things that would have seemed unlikely to me when I was a younger adult.
I also studied quite a bit of medieval literature in college and graduate school, and perhaps the medieval approach to seeing life on various levels at the same time–literal, allegorical, symbolic, and mystical–has come back in my later years not as an academic concept but as a spiritual reality to help me see grace in all sorts of people and things that otherwise might seem random.
Probably all great spiritual traditions emphasize “awareness,” and for me, the awareness of the multitude of avenues by which grace has come to me in my life is very much on my mind right now–so I am happy you asked what I would like to share if I had one more thing to mention.
We’re really excited about this month of Forward Day by Day reflections. May’s author is Jerusalem Greer (whose posts for Grow Christians have been awesome, if you haven’t checked them out). Editor Rachel Jones recently did a video interview with Jerusalem and learned more about her writing, her perspective on daily practice, and more! Here it is:
Lent has begun, but it’s not too late to make good use of this holy journey toward Easter. The Book of Common Prayer, in the invitation to a holy Lent, suggests some ways to observe Lent, “by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.”
You can do all these things with a prayer book and a Bible, and if you don’t have copies of both, we encourage you to get them! But if you’re looking for some resources to take with you on the journey, Forward Movement offers some digital resources–no need to head out to the bookstore or wait for something to ship.
We offer several different little books of daily meditations for your Lenten time. New this year, Ashes and the Phoenix brings together daily meditations, powerful poetry by Len Freeman, and Jason Sierra’s inspiring woodcut art on your Kindle, Nook, or iBook device. If you are looking for a resource focused on mission outreach and social justice, check out Meeting Jesus on the Margins (Kindle, Nook, or iBook), featuring meditations from Becca Stevens, Richelle Thompson, and Hugo Olaiz, among other excellent writers.
At this time in our national life, when there has been much conversation about refugees, even as the number of displaced persons continues to rise around the globe, we invite you to engage this season in A Season of Prayer: 40 Days in the Desert. Each day will offer a prayer or scripture reading focused on themes of hospitality, migration, and refugee welcome.
If you want to focus on self-examination and prayer, you might find the Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book especially helpful. If you want to think about repentance and reconciliation, Living Reconciliation is just right.
For fun and inspiration, there’s always Lent Madness, in which you can learn how God works through ordinary women and men in extraordinary ways. Throughout Lent, you’ll vote for your favorite saints until one saint wins the coveted Golden Halo.
We offer a number of resources to help you read and meditate on God’s holy word. Of course, there’s Forward Day by Day, which you can get via email subscription, ebook, podcast, Facebook, Twitter, or app, in addition to print options. If you’ve never sat down and read the Bible before, you’ll receive a stunning gift as you read The Path: A Journey Through the Bible, which takes you on a magnificent journey from Genesis to Revelation, with helpful signposts along the way. Read to take on the challenge of reading every page of the Bible? Then you want the The Bible Challenge.
Last, but not least, you can read and study every word in the Bible that is spoken by a woman with Bible Women: All Their Words and Why They Matter. In addition to women’s voices, you’ll learn their back stories and discover reflection questions.
Whatever you do, please find a way to savor this great gift of forty days to return to God, and recommit to following Jesus.
When people ask me how I could leave the land of chips and queso for the land of pretzels and beer cheese, I simply tell them that I was unable to decline being offered my Barbie-Dream-Job, even though it was located in Cincinnati. And while I can still occasionally hear the wailing and gnashing teeth of the five generations of Texans that preceded me, answering Jesus’ call to this place has been one of the deepest joys of my life.
I knew that taking a job outside of parish lay ministry—where I’d spent almost my entire professional life—was going to be an adjustment. There would be a steep learning curve, and I would make some mistakes that everyone would see and notice as mistakes. What I didn’t count on—what surprised and delighted me to my core, what made me know in the deepest part of myself that I had made the right choice—was how much more I fell in love with Jesus while just doing my job.
At the heart of the Christian experience is an understanding that making our lives look like Jesus’ life will require some serious individual work and intention. We also know that we are just a part of of Jesus’ body here on earth, and we have to learn how to work well with the other bits and pieces. Making our lives look like Jesus’ life is the hardest, most rewarding, and right thing we can do. Reading the Bible, saying our prayers, praying for and serving others are ways we attempt to do this best, right thing.
For a long time, I imagined that saying my prayers two or three times a day, reading through one of the Gospels during Lent, mostly paying attention to the lessons on Sundays, taking communion, and not swearing out loud at people who are incapable of driving like evolved human beings was putting me pretty square with the Lord. And then I came to Forward Movement. Mostly, my job focuses on Forward Day by Day—our flagship resource. Consequently, I read almost all of the lessons for each day as I’m doing my editing job. I can’t help an author be clear about a text if I’m not familiar with the context myself, so reading what the Daily Office or the Revised Common Lectionary have to offer is essential.
Reading the Bible every day, looking at the ties between the Old and New Testaments, seeing the beauty of the Psalms cycle back and around every month, letting my heart marinate in the sweetness of the Word, allowing myself to ask deep questions and be relentless and fearless in ferreting out the answers (or just making peace with the questions) has radically and irrevocably changed my life. That’s right—the thing everyone has been telling you your whole life about God is true—just read the Bible every day, and amazing things will happen. I was as surprised by that simple and not-new revelation as I was when I found out that lunch meetings were neither glamorous nor productive. Reading the Bible—and taking it seriously—has given me such joy, totally complicated my life, and demanded more of my time and energy than I would have imagined. But I also hunger for that word now. When things go sideways, I do not hesitate look up key words I’m feeling to see where they are repeated by the prophets, in the stories of Jesus, in the Psalms, and God shows me grace, shows me ways see the Kingdom that is already here and still being prepared.
Let’s be honest—Jesus will love you just the same as he does right this very minute even if you don’t start reading your Bible every day or develop a daily devotional habit or find ways to augment the habits you may already have. But…and we all love a big but…Can you imagine falling even more in love with Jesus—more in love with your neighbors, more in love with the world God has made and called good, less worried about other people and their weirdnesses, less concerned about what you don’t have and more concerned with how you can share what you do have? Are you willing to take that big risk?
If you are, I promise I’ll sit right here with you. I’m taking this risk of spending time with Jesus, of falling in love with his crazy friends, of being convinced that God is making all things new—even me, too. At Forward Movement, this is how we participate in the Jesus Movement—so you’ve got company. Join us, either with friends or on your own, at 10 a.m. each morning to savor a sweet time with the Word and with each other. We’re here to inspire disciples, empower evangelists, and love the world for Jesus’ sake, and we’re glad you’re here with us, too.
Rachel Jones is Associate Editor at Forward Movement. You can connect with the Forward Day by Day community on Facebook, Twitter, or our prayer site forum; share your Moving Forward experiences with the hashtag #ForwardDaybyDay; and listen to the Forward Day by Day podcast on the go.
Here at Forward Movement we’re in full-on Lent prep mode. And that can only mean one thing: They’re baaack:
That’s right: it’s just over 2 weeks until Ash Wednesday, and that means a certain annual early-spring tournament is about to sweep office coolers around the nation. We speak of Lent Madness, of course. Not familiar? Check out the video above from the SEC (Supreme Executive Committee), a.k.a. Scott Gunn and Tim Schenck.
The next step in joining the Madness is to pick up a Saintly Scorecard (also available in poster size, great for parish halls). Then make your selections, vote online during Lent, and enjoy learning more about these saints.
Lent Madness is silly by design, of course, but a funny thing happens during the March mayhem—we learn some pretty powerful stuff. Scott writes about that in this week’s Forward Today, titled “Inspiration from the Saints.” A key quote:
“Every saint we remember is known for their advocacy of the vulnerable or for calling people to transformed lives or for prophetically calling the church to return to its Gospel life. To celebrate the saints is to celebrate rocking the boat. To celebrate the saints is to discover that God works for justice through people like you and me.”
Speaking of advocacy of the vulnerable: One powerful Lenten practice we’re recommending this year is Meeting Jesus on the Margins. We produced this book in 2016, but just reprinted it for yearly use. It focuses on Jesus’ message in the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus urges us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and visit the prisoners. That message is certainly timeless.
Also: Have you been following along with Minda Cox’s Forward Day by Day meditations this month? It’s not too late to join in this daily practice for February—and to weigh in with the new Moving Forward feature, using #ForwardDaybyDay.
On Feb 6, readers responded to the following action: Take or draw a picture of your favorite real-life servant-leader in action. On the hashtag, we saw a wide variety of answers:
Really cool to see such a range of answers! And there are more great Moving Forward questions and actions coming up. Wishing you all a peaceful week.
Read by nearly a half-million people around the world each day, Forward Day by Day—Forward Movement’s iconic daily devotional—is a Jesus-centric source for individuals and churches seeking inspiration, encouragement, and scripture engagement. The meditations are substantively rich and offer a wide range of witness and experiences.
Each month’s meditations are written by a different author, reflecting the depth and breadth of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement.
Through personal stories, scripture reflections, and a dose of humor, Forward Day by Day writers offer insights into some of faith’s biggest questions. But how much do you know about them?
For some time now, Forward Movement has published the names of each month’s author, and a brief paragraph about them. Now we want to share even more about these inspiring individuals.
Moving forward (see what we did there?), we’ll be sharing even more about our Forward Day by Day authors.
Forward Movement caught up with our February 2017 author, Minda Cox, at her home in Missouri. See the video below.
Also, check out the Forward Day by Day Reader’s Guide. You can use the guide on your own to enhance your experience of the month’s meditations, gather a group from your parish to explore these questions together, or join in the discussion with Forward Movement’s online community.
In his letter of gratitude, he wrote:
Please find attached a picture from a recent celebration of Holy Communion. I want you to know that lives are being touched with a message of good news and transformative, unconditional love… and Forward Movement is part of that story.
Your gift today lets us say YES again and again to our military and many, many others with gifts of Forward Day by Day, prayer books, and much more. Please make your gift now. Happy New Year!
Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad. Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which beset them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. -BCP