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Forward Today: Sustained by prayer

Dear friends in Christ,

As I write to you in what feels like the tenth year of being stuck at home, I suspect you are experiencing much of the same swirl of emotions that I feel. Sometimes I am enjoying this time at home, especially since I usually spend so much time traveling. Sometimes I am bored. Sometimes I long for a return to normalcy, even as I know that “normal” will probably be different now. And sometimes I grieve the things I cannot do because of the coronavirus crisis.

I have good days and bad days, and maybe you do, too. Several things keep me going, and one of them is regular prayer.

If you have an abundant prayer life, wonderful. Maybe you wish you had a deeper life of prayer. Or maybe you have been in the habit of daily prayer in the past, but it just hasn’t seemed to work these days. We all wax and wane on our journey as disciples. There’s no shame in admitting we’ve wandered into the desert and we need to find our way to the oasis.

Someone years ago gave me good advice on prayer. Don’t wait to feel like praying. Start praying, and the feeling will come along later. We might imagine that next week we’ll feel holier or have more time. But the reality is that today is the day we can change. So let’s change today. It’s never too late or too soon to start praying.

Forward Movement has lots of resources to help you along the way. We have morning prayer and evening prayer podcasts. We have an app for Android or Apple that offers Forward Day by Day and the daily office. We have a whole website devoted to daily prayer resources. And of course, there’s our flagship offering, Forward Day by Day.

If you’re used to getting Forward Day by Day at your church, maybe they’ll be getting you your own copy at home. You can also subscribe and receive Forward Day by Day in your own mailbox or by email. If you end up with an extra, you can always give it to a friend.

And, of course, we don’t need anything to pray, really. We can just talk to God. If you talk to God regularly, I hope you’ll share your joy in prayer with others. And if you don’t, give it a try. God is always ready to hear our prayers, even when we’re not so sure we’re ready to offer them.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

 

 

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Introducing Matthew
With Vicki Garvey

For six weeks this Easter, meet with other students from around the world for a free, live, online class on the Gospel of Matthew with Vicki Garvey, a respected teacher and author and former Canon for Lifelong Education at the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.

In this class, Vicki will teach us about the author, origin, setting, and message of the Gospel of Matthew. Classes will meet live on Thursday nights via zoom from April 23-May 28, 2020, and they will last an hour.

This class is ideal for people participating in the Good Book Club 2020, and for anyone interested in learning more about the Gospel of Matthew.


Tune in!

Listen to today’s Forward Day by Day reflection on the Forward Day by Day podcast. Find morning prayer on the Morning at the Office podcast and end your day with the Evening at Prayer podcast. Available anywhere you listen!


New Release:
Come & See: Reflections on the Life of Jesus

Each day since 1935, Forward Day by Day has offered daily devotions rooted in the Word of God and love of Jesus. Now, for the first time, some of the best meditations from the past three decades are collected into one volume and arranged chronologically, from Jesus’ birth to resurrection. Although the devotions were written in different contexts by a variety of authors, this collection offers a rich tapestry of reflections, some poignant, others pointed, but all committed to a way of love.

Come & See is curated by Sanford Smith, a pastor from Omaha, Nebraska, who began reading and collecting his favorite Forward Day by Day meditations in 1985. Today, at age ninety-five, he still volunteers four days a week as a hospital chaplain but every morning, he puts first things first and opens Forward Day by Day to read and pray.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the printing of this title has been delayed until late summer. Pre-order your print copy today, but also know that we’ve made the e-book version available early. You can find it on Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and at the iTunes store.


In case you missed it…

New ChurchNext course: A Covid-19 Spiritual Survival Kit | ChurchNext

Held by Baptism: Life Everlasting in the Midst of a Pandemic | Earth & Altar

Keeping our Community: spiritual connection and physical distance | Grow Christians

Virtual Evangelism | Episcopal Church Foundation Vital Practices

Free Shipping on orders of $50 throughout April | Forward Movement


 

The Forward Day by Day Online Community

It is incredible and moving to witness the interactions of our online Forward Day by Day community. Each day, members of this vibrant and active community come together to reflect on the day’s meditation and pray for each other. And although most have never met in real life, they know each other by name and pray, grieve, and celebrate together. Join the conversation at prayer.forwardmovement.org and on our Facebook page. —Alyssa Finke, Marketing Coordinator at Forward Movement.


“A good way to start my day. Oftentimes there’s something very relevant to my circumstances; sometimes it’s an epiphany of scripture and many times comforting conversation from the Disqus forum. Try it out!”

“Best wakeup call every day.”

“Love your publication has been a constant daily reading in my home for years. You were asking about anchors in our lives other than Jesus. I lost my anchor, my best friend of 55 years ago to cancer and my favorite brother-in-law within a week to cancer. Your Forward Day by Day publications was a blessing. Thank you so much, and God bless all of you there.”

“I get up early to make sure I read this before I leave the house.”

“The reflections are right on target for what we face in today’s world. Rooted in Scripture for the ages, but I see the lessons throughout the day in the living world.”

“I follow Forward Day by Day online, along with a wonderful group of people. We love the inspirational posts and how writers try to be inclusive in outreach, inspirational, and empathetic, and also both timely and timeless. The posts are well designed to speak to us in the here and now but also to show how the word of Christ has remain essentially unchanged across the ages.”

“I am posting this in honor of Marshall Williams, a true FDBD saint who was referred to as the “Moses” of the online FDBD community. It’s very fitting that Marshall was able to soldier on in his fight against cancer to make it to one more Veteran’s Day. Marshall’s Dad was one of the “Greatest Generation,” men and women who sacrificed much for a noble cause. Marshall himself lived every day of his life dedicated to others. He is an inspiration to us all. We need more leaders like Marshall: leaders who listen, empathize, encourage, uplift. Peace be with you, Marshall.”


THANK YOU to our online community who provides us with inspiration and support, day by day. Your presence and interactions with us and with fellow readers mean so very much to us.

Read the latest issue of Odyssey here.

Your support puts Forward Day by Day and other spiritual resources into the hands of those who need it most. Thank you for your prayers and continued generosity!

Support Forward Movement

Dear friends in Christ,

We face a challenging time for the church and its members. Forced into isolation for our safety, it can feel like a painful exile from the familiar routines of life. At Forward Movement, we’ve been busy providing resources that we hope will be useful for the church and inspiring for its members. Many of these resources are free, thanks to your generosity.

You can imagine that hospitals and nursing homes need the most help right now, including spiritual support. The scriptures and devotions in Forward Day by Day provide a beacon of Gospel hope.

I have recently assumed the role of Pastoral Care Coordinator here at Billings Clinic Hospital. I previously served at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where we had great interest in the Forward Day by Day devotionals that you so generously provided to us each quarter.

I would love to incorporate Forward Day by Day here as one of the resources we can offer our patients, staff, and family members. I think they would greatly appreciate the perspectives provided in this devotional. I’d love to start with 100 copies. Can you help?

We received this request last week, and we sent 150 copies of Forward Day by Day, including large print and Spanish language, to the Billings Clinic. With your help, we will send more to hospitals that need them. Let us know of a hospital or clinic who could use Forward Day by Day.

Sales and donations sustain Forward Movement. As you might imagine, as we adjust to our new reality, our sales have significantly slowed. We always hope you support your local church first, but if you are able, Forward Movement could use your support now. We’ve walked with disciples since 1935, and we want to continue that journey with you through this crisis.

Will you make a generous gift to sustain Forward Movement today?

You can make a gift online, or call our friendly staff during business hours (800-543-1813) or mail a check to the address below.

Thank you for your financial support. And thank you for your prayers. Know that the Forward Movement staff gathers each day to pray for you and the needs of the whole world.

Yours faithfully,

Flashback Friday: November 15, 1994

Hebrews 10:37 For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised. 

A friend of mine is recovering from a serious injury. She spent months in physical therapy, learning first to stand and sit again, to walk with a walker and then with a cane. She does exercises which are designed to strengthen her muscles; the therapists tell her that her pain will diminish as her muscles strengthen.

And she finds that this is true: slowly but surely, she is getting better. She can now walk long distances, and she has just begun riding a bicycle again. At first, she could not ride the bike up the gentle slope of her driveway. She would have to dismount and walk it up. It was discouraging, not being able to go up such a little hill. She kept trying; she’d go a few yards up before her strength failed. Then a few yards more. Then halfway. Finally one day, she sailed up the drive, ringing her little bicycle bell in triumph.

Nothing comes to us overnight. God calls us to a life of faith, not a life of magic. When we grow in patience and perseverance, we grow spiritually stronger. That which seemed impossible to us at first grows possible as we endure in hopeful fidelity to God’s plan. God does not test us hoping we will fail. God strengthens and encourages us, willing our good.

Throwback Thursday: 1995

This meditation, originally published in Forward Day by Day in 1995, was featured in our 75th Anniversary edition in 2010.



Luke 17:11-17 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.

I remember the importance my mother put on writing thank-you letters and saying “Thank you” after a party. I recall thinking as a youngster that she made too much of it. I identified with the small boy who said after a party, “My mother told me to tell you I had a very nice time.”

Now that I’m grown up, I realize how important gratitude is. The name of our central service of worship—the eucharist—means “thank you” in Greek. As a psychotherapist, I realize that the cornerstone of mental health is a thank-you attitude toward life, even in the midst of pain and less. Unhealthy is a whining “I deserve better than this; it’s not fair” even in the midst of plenty. The ability to give thanks is a watershed of spiritual and mental health. To find a thank-you in your heart toward the Author of life is true worship.

Reflect on the area of your life which is causing you pain right now. Can you stay with the pain for a moment and sincerely say “Thank you” for something you have discovered within it? In doing so, you have just celebrated eucharist in your own heart.

P.S. Thanks, Mom. (1995)

 

Throwback Thursday Meditation: June 8, 2001

Forward Day by Day coverLuke 18:9-14. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income. 

We all have our yardsticks for judging others’ faith: “I heard that they tithe;” “He was a senior warden;” “They go to church every day;” “She’s a priest.” Measurements can either make us feel superior or guilty; you can always find someone worse or better than yourself. The result of these comparisons is always the same: paralysis. We either convince ourselves that we are doing well and don’t need to change, or guilt forces us to leave religion to the religious or to wallow in self-pity.

Of course, only God knows what is inside, and God isn’t keeping that kind of scorecard. Trying to judge other’s faith solely through their external piety is just as foolish as thinking that if we do enough “good” things, God will have to let us into heaven. We aren’t saved by anything measurable, rather by the immeasurable love of Christ on the cross. Our part in it is to have faith, and that faith can bear fruit without effort or worry. Christ came to set us free from the bondage of sin; we need to step outside our cells.

Throwback Thursday Meditation: November 5, 1982

Forward CoverLuke 13:31-35. Jesus said, I must be on my way today and tomorrow and the next day.

There is about Our Lord a sense of continuous travelling. It is not a frantic restlessness but a controlled and purposeful journeying. Again and again we read of him in terms of “the way.” There is very little element of a fixed abode.

We can transfer that into the interior world of our spirituality. Our spirituality must be a living reality, ready to be mobile rather than static, ready to do a great deal of mental and spiritual travelling and exploration. To do that we certainly do need spiritual bases. Jesus had them for his travels. There was Bethany, there was Capernaum, there were quiet hillsides, even the desert. Being a Christian today means possessing these two elements of spirituality. Faith is, by paradox, both a point of arrival and a staging post for further journey.

Turn, follow, learn, pray,
Serve, share, the disciple’s way
Weary find your rest in him
Whose worship is the pilgrim’s inn.

Pray for the sick and for God’s guidance to know what you can do to assist their healing.

 

Throwback Thursday Meditation: July 8, 1965

This was the Forward Day by Day meditation on July 8, 1965. It is titled What Draws People to Christ.


A great multitude, when they had heard what great things he did, came unto him.

People were drawn in droves to Jesus, not by the charming stories He told, but by the “great things he did”: healing sick bodies and minds, picking up fallen sinners and setting them on their feet, raising dead souls to life.

His Church today will do well to note this fact. We want the whole world to come to Christ in His Church. And the divine Head of the Church tells us to go forth in the power of His Name and do His works. Preaching His Gospel in words has its essential place. Jesus Himself came preaching. But He did more than talk: He acted. This was what drew the great multitude to Him. And this is what will draw the world to Him today: our doing things by His power.

We can, if we will. He gives us money, influence, opportunity, all necessary assets for the doing of His mighty works. When we do them, zealously, sacrificially, the world sees Christ working through us: and it turns to Him.

Update to Forward Day by Day online comment system

Since we began offering Forward Day by Day online several years ago, we have encouraged conversation among our readers and friends. For the last few years, we have been using a system from Facebook. This has offered an advantage in that most of our readers already use Facebook, so there’s no new password to use. It has also encouraged good online behavior, since all comments are coming from identifiable people.

We are proud of the quality of conversation we have hosted. Every day, a regular community engages with the daily meditations, and newcomers are warmly welcomed. The tone has consistently been gracious, even amid occasional disagreements about this or that issue. Above all, a spirit of prayer has pervaded the conversation. We are grateful to all who have participated and read the conversations.

Over the years, we’ve had some problems with the Facebook system. Every time, it is a struggle to address. We have little control over the setup, and we simply cannot get technical support. This is, after all, only a tiny speck of what Facebook does as a business. And we have heard from several folks that they cannot join the conversation because they do not want to have a Facebook account for one reason or another.

After considering various options, we have decided to switch to a new system for accommodating comments. Around the middle of November, we intend to switch to a system from a company called Disqus. You may be used to it already; it is perhaps the most popular commenting system now in use across thousands upon thousands of websites. We have already used it on several of our own websites.

We hope it will not be a big adjustment. It will have many similar features to our current system, and if you want to continue using your Facebook account, that will work. You can also use other social media accounts, and you will also be able to create an account to leave comments without being a Facebook or Twitter user. We are testing out the system now, and we hope the changeover will be free of undue disruption.

Here’s what will remain constant. We will continue to ask you to comment under your real name. We will continue to ask everyone to be respectful and gracious with others. We will continue to bar hateful rhetoric or falsehoods; this has rarely been a problem.

We hope you’ll enjoy the new system. And if there are problems, do let us know. We’ll do our best to host what has been inspiring and edifying conversation.

Thank you for your support of Forward Day by Day and Forward Movement’s ministries over these years.

The Good Book Club: Reading God’s Word Together

By Richelle Thompson
Forward Movement Deputy Director and Managing Editor

Reading scripture changes us. Encounters with God and God’s word transform us. Every time. Whether we’re looking for answers or think we’re doing just fine on our own, God’s word still speaks.

This fundamental and profound truth lies at the heart of the Good Book Club, Forward Movement’s invitation to the church to read the Book of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles together throughout the seasons of Lent and Easter. We believe engaging in scripture brings us into deeper relationship with our Savior—and that reading God’s word together will bring us into closer relationship with one another.

Throughout Lent and Easter, Forward Day by Day will move through Luke and Acts instead of our regular practice of following the lectionary. (Don’t worry: We’ll still offer the lectionary readings on our website.) I am honored to be one of the four featured writers during this time period, alongside talented, faithful colleagues, the Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman (March), the Rev. Marcus Halley (April), and Miguel Escobar (May). As always, our Forward Day by Day meditations will be available in Spanish, as a podcast, online, on an app, in Braille, and large print.

In addition, we will offer free downloadable Bible studies for individuals and congregations to explore some of the stories in more depth. We continue the Bible Challenge series with A Journey with Luke and the newly released A Journey through Acts, daily meditations by noted theologians and faith leaders from around the world. With RenewalWorks, we also present a Good Book Club calendar featuring the inspirational and thought-provoking cartoons of the Rev. Jay Sidebotham.

Reading scripture is both deeply personal and an act of community. We invited Episcopal organizations from across the church to partner in the Good Book Club initiative. The response was overwhelming. More than twenty-five organizations stepped up to partner with Forward Movement, committing time and talent to develop resources for the wider church. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a video invitation for all Episcopalians to join the Good Book Club. In my twenty years of local, diocesan, and church-wide work, I have never seen so many organizations come together for common cause. God is doing a new thing indeed.

Episcopal Migration Ministries will offer a special podcast, featuring voices from across the U.S., the church, and the immigrant and refugee community. A blog will accompany the podcast featuring written reflections, art, photography, music, and videos from podcast guests and others. ChurchNext has developed a free, five-course video curriculum for Lent called Luke the Liberator. United Thank Offering (UTO) has prepared a downloadable booklet with meditations on the readings, questions for personal reflection or group discussion, space to keep a gratitude journal, and a story of a ministry supported by UTO. Forma will offer a weekly Faith-at-Home series, featuring reflections and activities for families, and Building Faith will publish a series of articles to help Christian educators and parents read and study Luke and Acts with children and teens. These are just a sampling of the wide variety of resources that offer an opportunity for people to engage wherever they are—geographically, spiritually, emotionally. A full list of the partners is featured below, and links to the resources can be found at www.goodbookclub.org.

In addition to organizations, entire dioceses are onboard, making scripture engagement a priority. So too several congregations have committed to reading and exploring Luke and Acts together. If you’d like for your congregation or organization to be included as a partner or want to know more about how to get involved, send me an email at rthompson@forwardmovement.org.

As we began making plans for this project, we discussed our goals and what success might look like. We have some quantitative and qualitative measures, but we’re also not willing to limit how God might work in and among us. We can only dream and imagine how the Good Book Club might shape and transform us as individuals and as a church. God already knows.

Excerpt from Forward Day by Day, February 2018

Luke 2:10-11. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.

You have probably heard these words dozens of times. Perhaps you were a shepherd clad in an ill-fitting sheet or a young Mary holding a burlap-wrapped baby doll. Maybe, propped on elbows on the family room floor, you watched an earnest Linus tell Charlie Brown—and us—what Christmas is all about. Maybe wax burned your fingers as you held a candle at midnight mass, listening to these words said by a priest or sung by a choir.

Luke’s telling of the birth of Christ is the familiar favorite: The emperor sending out a decree; Joseph and Mary setting out for Bethlehem on a donkey; Jesus sleeping (and crying, I suspect) in a manger.

Whether this is your first or fiftieth time hearing this story, may you meet each telling with wonder and awe. The birth of any child is amazing, but the birth of this one is miraculous. Just twenty-one verses change the course of the world. One story in a sea of stories that is the greatest one ever to be told, offering good news of great joy for all people.

MOVING FORWARD: Read the lesson out loud today. Savor the memories this story calls up for you.