Tag Archives: Forward Today

Forward Today: Two or more, gathered

Dear friends in Christ,

Today, a few team members from Forward Movement are driving to Indianapolis for the 2019 FORMA conference, a gathering of nearly 500 Christian formation leaders, thinkers, and practitioners from around the Episcopal Church.

In an era of video meeting services and free online libraries of keynote addresses, one might have concluded several years ago that in-person conferences were on the way out, replaced by the ease and affordability of a new, modern way to gather and share ideas in real time. To be sure, Forward Movement uses some of this technology regularly, and with success.

Yet, we still gather for in-person conferences. Why?

Evangelism Matters
It turns out, despite incredibly powerful advancements in how we communicate, nothing can dethrone the power of being present for each other. Nothing forms bonds of trust, understanding, and empathy like hearing a subtle tone of voice, seeing body language of a presenter, or hearing directly from a peer dealing with similar challenges.

These experiences of community help lower our guard and open us to new ideas and fresh thinking. And that is the point. With our guard lowered, we are humbled as a member of a community. Our ego gives way to curiosity and an openness to learn. Innovation and creative thinking rarely come from the daily grind. We humans need space for that thinking, and more often than not, we need help from others. So, we pause and gather.

Please keep us in your prayers this week as we stop the grind to be present for each other and to be witnesses for the community at work around the Church.

Yours in Christ,

Jason Merritt
Deputy Director and Marketing Director


Today’s Flash Sale: Bible Women

Women of the Bible have been trapped in dry and dusty literary caskets for centuries. While a few women, such as Mary, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Mary Magdalene, are familiar, many of the women who speak in the Bible have long been ignored. Yet their words are part of God’s Word, the Bible, for a reason. Through these women, God spoke, intervened, changed, illustrated, and proclaimed the story of redemption.

In this groundbreaking book named best Bible study of 2015 by Illumination Book Awards, Episcopal priest Lindsay Hardin Freeman identifies every woman who speaks in the Bible, providing their words, context, and historical background. We learn which women speak the most (hint: it’s not Mary!) and which books of the Bible have the fewest words from women.

Regular: $22
Today: $16.50

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Romans

Dear friends in Christ,

The guiding principle of the Good Book Club is simple (but not easy): When people read scripture, they are transformed. And so are their families and friends, neighborhoods and cities.

By inviting people to read a full book of the Bible, in community with others around the world, we prayed the experience would spur a lifelong spiritual practice of reading scripture — sometimes wrestling with it, often times discovering new insight, and always letting God’s Word be a beacon of light for the journey.

Last year, thousands of us read together the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, learning and recalling the stories of Jesus and the early days of the Church. Ten days ago, we began the second Good Book Club journey, with Paul’s Letter to the Romans. By most accounts, this book is a harder read. Thanks to Christmas pageants and Charlie Brown, the opening passages of Luke are familiar territory for most. Parables such as of the lost sheep, the Good Samaritan, and the prodigal son helped form our core understanding of faith, and even if we couldn’t recount all of the plot points of Acts, Saul’s conversion is so well-known that a “Road to Damascus” moment is part of our pop-culture lexicon to indicate a sudden turning point.Good Book ClubBut Romans is different. Instead of the stories about what Jesus does, Paul is earnest and insistent about explaining the why: Why was Jesus born? Why did Jesus die? Why does this matter? Paul digs deep into theological principles of justification, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, precepts that scholars and priests have explored, dissected, and debated for centuries.

But at the heart of Romans is the profound and simple (but not easy) truth: We are transformed by God’s grace. Period. Nothing we do or say or strive for can save us from our sinful nature. We are saved only by the grace of an ever-loving God through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

God loves us. God forgives us.

As you continue your journey through Romans (and if you haven’t started, it’s not too late! Join the Good Book Club community), let these two truths be your guide and open yourself to being formed and transformed by God’s Holy Scriptures.

Only God knows what might happen next.

Yours in Christ,

Richelle Thompson
Deputy Director and Managing Editor, Forward Movement


Today’s Flash Sale: Note to Self

Note to SelfDiscover what God has written onto your heart. What do you want for your life? Who do you want to be in your life, and how do you want to live? We humans need reminders, and when it comes to making a consistent effort to be better people, it’s important to have constant reminders. A “Rule of Life” is an ancient method for building soul memory, and offering reminders to ourselves of the person we hope to be—it is a practice of training your mind and soul to be kind and good.

Creating your own rule of life is grace that only you can offer to yourself, helping remind you to live the life you desire, and the life God wishes for you. Join author and Episcopal priest Charles LaFond as he guides you through the wisdom, creation, and application of your own Rule of Life.

Regular: $18
Today: $13.50

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Revive

Dear friends in Christ,

I have a confession. When new folks step up to serve on the vestry or another key leadership role in the congregation or diocese, I pray for them. Of course, I pray for God to grant them wisdom and patience as they steer the church. But I also pray this: Dear God, let them still want to be a part of the church when their vestry term is complete.

Seeing how the sausage is made isn’t pretty. Because churches are institutions with human beings, they have all the foibles and flaws of humans. We might expect (and hope and pray) that church folks will extend grace and see Christ in one another—and many times, we do. But as humans, we also have the capacity to be mean-spirited, petty, territorial, and stubborn. And when this happens in our churches—places that we hope will be a sanctuary from this type of behavior—we can become disillusioned and disheartened. I should know. After nearly two decades of working for church organizations and as the wife of a priest, I have been there, broken-hearted and soul-weary.

Small group praying

That’s one of the reasons I am so excited about the work of the Rev. Canon Dawn Davis of the Diocese of Niagara in the Anglican Church of Canada. She recognized that the administrative functions of church leadership—making sure the bills are paid and the facilities are maintained—often become the focus for church leaders, and spiritual growth and nurture fall to the wayside. It’s easier to mark off tangible items on a to-do list than to engage in the messy, non-linear work of strengthening our spiritual lives.

And yet, without our connection and relationship to God, we are simply social service agencies that meet on Sunday mornings. When we don’t have the time or energy to respond to the deep calling of God, we eventually become empty vessels, unable to keep leading effectively and aching for everlasting water.

Dawn spent time with church leaders and began developing a response that she has shaped today into Revive. This small-group discipleship program celebrates the faithful service of lay leaders and offers them the gift of exploring their faith journey and discerning their calling.

Over the course of ten months, lay leaders experience different ways to pray and study God’s word as well as learn how to confidently lead groups in prayer or Bible study. The program invites participants to explore and discover spiritual practices that will feed them, so that once nourished, they might go and help others grow in love of Christ and neighbor.

Having spent significant time with the resources of Revive, I believe they can transform the experience of church leadership so that at the end of service on a vestry or diocesan committee, leaders might not feel drained and exhausted but rather reinvigorated and revived, fortified by a deeper relationship with God and with each other and ready for new opportunities to serve and be served.

Yours in Christ,

Revive logoRichelle Thompson
Deputy Director and Managing Editor

Revive is now available. 


Today’s Flash Sale: A Journey with Luke

Journey with LukeA masterful storyteller with the compassion of a physician, Luke paints a picture of Jesus as healer, full of mercy, forgiveness, and love. The Gospel of Luke features the lovely Magnificat, Mary’s love song to God, and the nativity story heard in Christmas pageants around the world. Luke includes three parables not heard in any other gospel: the prodigal son, the good Samaritan, and the unjust judge. Luke, also believed to be the author of the book of Acts, emphasizes prayer as central to the life of faith.

Join the journey with Luke with fifty days of scripture readings, meditations, and prayers written by dynamic spiritual leaders from around the world. A Journey with Luke is part of a series of fifty-day Bible studies and is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with the Word of God.

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: A Morning Resolve

Dear friends in Christ,

As I scrolled through Facebook on New Year’s Day, A Morning Resolve appeared in my feed. In my quiet house where everyone else was sleeping, I read the prayer to myself as if I’d never read it before. I will try this day to live a simple, sincere and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking… It’s easy to see why so many people start their day with this beautiful prayer. Imagine what our world would be like if we all sought to achieve the intentions set in just one or two phrases of this prayer, let alone the whole thing.

The part that stuck with me most was the second sentence: In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right. After re-reading it a few times, I thought about the practices of the Way of Love that Bishop Curry calls us to follow each day: Turn, Learn, Pray, Worship, Bless, Go, Rest. No matter how many days I have where I feel I’ve worked hard to follow the practices, it’s easy to feel as though I’m falling short. I forgot to say grace before breakfast. Our family Bible study didn’t happen. My day off didn’t include the kind of restorative rest God intended.

A Morning Resolve Prayer

Thankfully, the prayer isn’t over yet. And as I cannot in my own strength do this, nor even with a hope of success attempt it, I look to thee, O Lord God, in Jesus my Savior, and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The hope of this promise that God, Son, and Spirit embody my being allows me to believe each day in the hope of success. My prayer for us is that the God we worship and praise, the Son with whom we walk, and the Spirit that lifts our bodies, minds, and hearts into action abides with us as we enter into this New Year.

Perhaps you will commit to reading more scripture each day. Maybe you need to focus on making prayer a more consistent discipline. Taking a true sabbath day might be an accomplishment God calls you to achieve. Whatever your intentions for this year, please know that we at Forward Movement believe in you and pray for your success.

Let’s resolve each day to make God’s dreams for us come true.

Peace,
Miriam McKenney
Development Director, Forward Movement


Today’s Flash Sale: Faith with a Twist

Faith with a TwistFaith with a Twist seeks to bridge the gap between spiritual-but-not-religious by blending the ancient church’s wisdom and the spiritual practice of yoga. All too often attempts to blend yoga and Christianity have failed to do justice to both traditions—often sacrificing the wisdom of one tradition for the other. Faith with a Twist connects the traditional eight limbs of yoga with the church’s understanding and emphasis on living a holy life. This approach creates a unique blend of spiritual practices and religious wisdom that are perfect for the yoga novice and the experienced practitioner alike.

Regular: $16
Today: $12

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

 

Forward Today: Christmastide is just starting

Dear friends in Christ,

Happy Christmas! I hope your Christmas is off to a wonderful start. Of course, today is the second day of Christmas. If you’re going along with the famous Twelve Days of Christmas song, you’ll be thinking of two turtledoves today. We still have ten more days of Christmas festivity ahead.

I love celebrating Christmas as the world has moved on. Perhaps Valentine’s Day items will be up for sale before we finish Christmas. And that’s just fine. You see, when we celebrate Christmas for the full twelve days, one of the gifts is that there’s no peer pressure. The Muzak and the mall aren’t forcing you into faux cheer. If you’re filled with Christmas cheer today, it’s because you want to be keeping the full feast.

Keep singing Christmas carols. Today, tomorrow, and right up through January 5th. It’s wonderfully countercultural. Spend time in these coming days in the silence—which is easier to find now than in the days leading up to Christmas—giving thanks for the great depth of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.

As for me, I’m giving thanks for refreshment. I’m starting a three-month sabbatical next week. That’s a pretty great Christmas gift! I’ll be doing some travel, some reading, some praying, and maybe a bit of writing. Over the next three months, my colleagues at Forward Movement and some of our board members will be writing these weekly reflections. I hope you’ll enjoy the variety of voices and perspectives.

Today, I am filled with gratitude for Forward Movement, for our provision of sabbatical rest, and for the gift of the wonderful Episcopal Church I am privileged to serve. I am also grateful for Christmastide and carols for days on end. Mostly, I am grateful for Jesus our Emmanuel.

Pray for me over the next three months of sabbatical, and know that I am praying for you. We all have so much for which to give thanks to God.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: Xavier Romero-Frias, from Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]


Today’s Flash Sale: Hour by Hour

Hour by HourPray without ceasing with this compact edition of the Daily Office complete with prayers and psalms for one week. This beautiful little book, excerpted from The Book of Common Prayer, will enable anyone to say the hours every day: Morning Prayer, Noonday Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline. Perfect for prayer and worship at all times and in all places. Hour by Hour is a thoughtful gift—the cover is deluxe soft leather, and it’s packaged in a small white gift box.

Regular: $20
Today: $15

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Full church, full hearts

Dear friends in Christ,

Christmas is just around the corner. After all the Muzak, the crowded malls, the holiday parties, and the delicious treats, we get to the real deal. Most readers of this email will, I suspect, find themselves in a church this Christmas Eve. And most likely, that church will be crowded.

I’ve heard people make disparaging remarks about “Christmas and Easter Christians.” I wish that would stop. You see, no one gets bonus points for daily church as opposed to twice a year. Jesus doesn’t love you more if you have high status in the Frequent Church Loyalty Program.

Now I do believe there’s great value in regular worship attendance for those of us who are committed to following Jesus. But making unkind remarks about infrequent guests won’t win hearts.

Christmas EveI’m going to let you in on a little secret, dear reader. As a parish priest, one of my favorite moments every Christmas Eve happened in silence. I’d head over to the church before the first Christmas Eve service. Unless a musician was practicing, the church would be silent and empty. But the decorations were always set up. It was the height of Christmas anticipation. Everything was ready except for the crowds of worshipers who would soon come.

In the silence of that empty church, I would spend a few moments in prayer. Among other things, I would pray for everyone who was about to come to church. First time in church, infrequent guests, sporadic members, regular members, staff…everyone got some prayer time. My prayer would simply be that the message of Christmas would touch every life, every heart.

The Christmas story is mind-blowingly awesome, if you think about it. God loves us SO MUCH that Jesus Christ was willing to enter our world in the most humble way. God is no distant, remote deity. No, God is in our neighborhood. And God still is there.

So this Christmas Eve, I hope you’ll be in church. When you’re there, in that full church, I pray that your heart is full of love — of God’s love for you and your love of God.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: St. James Church, from Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0]


Today’s Flash Sale: For the Beauty of the Earth

For the Beauty of the EarthGod saw every living thing that was made, and indeed, it was very good. -Genesis 1:31.

Dance along with the wind of God, be bathed in the primal waters, and look with awe and wonder on the myriad creatures God has made. Spend a day, a week, a month, or the whole year basking in the wonder of both fruit and flower, night and day, and everything thing that creeps upon the good earth. You are part and parcel of the very good creation God has made.

Join watercolor artist Kathrin Burleson and diverse voices from across The Episcopal Church in exploring the wonders of Creation and the beauty of the Creator. Burleson’s Creation-inspired watercolors offer inspiring visualizations that enhance the book’s 365 daily meditations, written by authors across the church and across the country.

Regular: $20
Today: $15

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Bountiful grace

Dear friends in Christ,

This coming Sunday’s Gospel brings harsh words from John the Baptist. You brood of vipers! Give up your material possessions! Stop cheating! In other words, if we’re going to try to repent, we have to…well…repent. Change. We have to change.

John the Baptist clears up the idea that we can be comfortable Christians. This life of faith, he says, must surely involve some tough changes. Dying daily to sin is not easy, after all.

So how are we to manage this? The collect for this Sunday has a lovely phrase, “because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us.”John the Baptist

Got that? We can’t do right on our own. We won’t repent on our own. We will fail at tough changes on our own. But thanks be to God, we have God’s bountiful grace and mercy. As we say in our baptismal promises, “I will, with God’s help.”

We’re around halfway through Advent. There’s still plenty of time to savor this season of repentance, preparation, and yearning. Perhaps you’ll join me in setting aside a few moments to think about how bountiful grace and mercy might make a difference.

What might John the Baptist say to you, if you met him on the street? Are you ready for his challenging message? Are you ready to turn away from evil and toward Christ’s light? Are you ready to accept the gift of God’s bountiful grace and mercy?

I don’t know about you, but I have some repenting to do!

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: Flickr


Today’s Flash Sale: The Bible Challenge

The Bible ChallengeTake a great journey through the Bible, a year-long reading adventure, with The Bible Challenge. Each day you will be accompanied by a meditation written by a church leader or biblical scholar. More than one hundred archbishops, bishops, deans, priests, and scholars have contributed essays. The Rev. Marek P. Zabriskie, founder of The Bible Challenge and editor of this volume, believes that our lives of faith will be enlivened and expanded by a sustained encounter with God’s Word. If you never thought you could read the whole Bible, The Bible Challenge is a wonderful way to embark on a holy pilgrimage joined by others from around the world! Visit The Center for Biblical Studies for more information.

Regular: $18
Today: $13.50

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Advent invites preparation, hope, and repentance

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent has begun. For me, it could not have come soon enough. Yes, I see the irony there.

I love the quiet of Advent, with its insistence that we make space to listen to the voice who cries in the wilderness. I love the hope of Advent, with its invitation to prepare our hearts and our lives to adore Jesus Christ at Christmas and when he comes in glory. I love the challenge of Advent, with its call to repent.

Sometimes we focus so much on the hope and yearning part of Advent, that we miss the other parts. Talk to anyone preparing for the birth of a child, and you’ll certainly hear about hope and yearning. But you’ll also hear a lot about preparation and work! From where I sit, Advent is penitential in that it invites us to change our lives to reorient us to look toward the dawning light of Jesus Christ coming among us. Advent challenges us to change.

It’s not that I think we over-scheduled people need one more to-do list. That’s the last thing any church needs to be doing, making people become busier than we already are. Quite the opposite.

What would it be like to unplug for a while? What would it be like to step off the treadmill of endless work and interruptions and just…be? What would it be like to treasure the joy of prayer, whether it’s us offering up fervent prayer or just spending time in silence, listening?

We’re still very early in the season. For those of you who keep Advent wreaths, we’ve only lit 25% of the candles! There’s still plenty of time to savor this season.

Looking for some help? Try the Advent Word on social media. Try Forward Movement’s newest Advent meditation book with meditations on the name of Jesus (get it as an ebook right now!). Try the Journey Through Advent app (iOS or Android) from Forward Movement with daily scripture and an Advent calendar you can color in! Try reading the Gospel of Luke in your Bible or online. Or just try daily silence.

However you use this gift, may Advent be a blessing to you as you seek and worship Jesus Christ.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

Photo: Flickr


Today’s Flash Sale: Walk in Love

Take a journey through The Book of Common Prayer, the Christian life, and basic beliefs of our faith, guided by two Episcopal priests – Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe. 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.

Regular: $22
Today: $16.50

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

 

Forward Today: Are You Ready for Jesus?

Dear friends in Christ,

Advent is nearly upon us. I love this season and its invitation to prepare our hearts to meet Jesus. Mostly, Advent is about getting ready for our celebration of Christmas. That’s certainly one way we meet Jesus. But Advent is also about preparing to meet Jesus when he comes again in glory.

The scriptures offer us dire warnings. The Gospel on the First Sunday of Advent tells us to “Be on guard” and to “Be alert at all times.” The idea is that we’re meant to be ready for Jesus, who might come to judge us at a moment’s notice. What will he find us doing on that judgement day?

When desktop computers were new, some games used to have a built-on “the boss is here” feature. You could be playing a game, press a few keys, and something that looks like a spreadsheet would pop up on the screen. You wouldn’t want the boss to catch you playing a game at work!

I’m not sure that Advent is meant to put us in a “the boss is here” mode. We don’t need fake screens, because Jesus already knows what’s in our hearts. The spreadsheet wouldn’t fool him. I think Advent is meant to invite us to prepare for Jesus by looking for him and by serving him. Surely, we ought to be concerned about the day of judgement, but we can be just as concerned about today.

On my way to work, I pass people on the street who have no homes. How do I serve Christ in them? The scriptures testify to God’s love, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Am I looking for Christ in the scriptures? The church offers the sacraments, and its members are the body of Christ. Am I tuned to be attentive to Christ in the church and to honor him in the sacraments?

There are lots of ways to make our hearts ready for Jesus Christ this Advent. Use this season well.

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director
Photo: Flickr


Today’s Flash Sale: The Social Justice Bible Challenge

Featuring forty days of reflections by spiritual leaders and writers from around the world, The Social Justice Bible Challenge is an extension of The Bible Challenge, a global initiative to encourage daily engagement with scripture and an exploration of the Word of God. Disciples wishing to spend more time engaging the Bible on topics from poverty, hunger, displacement, and the care of widows and orphans will have their cups filled over and over again by the words of Scripture and meditations from people across the Church who engage with these realities each and every day.

Regular: $15
Today: $11.25

*Discount is valid until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time

Forward Today: Extravagant gratitude

Dear friends,

Tomorrow in the USA, it’s Thanksgiving Day. It’s rather remarkable that this day devoted to gratitude survives. We could have a fruitful exploration of the history of this day, or we could talk about the irony of people getting stressed out to cook massive meals on a day meant for giving thanks. But let us instead savor a day focused on gratitude.

We have so much for which to be thankful. Indeed, lots of scripture tells us to give thanks. The whole of the Christian faith is about grace, the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ, and grace begets gratitude. It’s really that simple. Every blessing in this life and in the life to come are gifts from God. How can we help but be grateful?

If that all weren’t enough, we know that people who are grateful are happier. It makes perfect sense: if my fundamental disposition is toward gratitude, I’m less likely to become aggrieved when something doesn’t go just the way I want it to go.

One wise friend of mine devotes time every morning to thanksgiving. He names things – maybe 25, maybe 50 – that he’s grateful for. It’s a spiritual practice that builds up his ability to be grateful more often, I’m sure.

So I’d like to challenge us all to practice extravagant gratitude. Find some way this week – do not put it off – to express your gratitude. I was inspired by a story in the Washington Post about a man who invites strangers to Thanksgiving dinner. Do you know someone who needs a place to eat? Invite someone to join your family and friends for the day.

Or maybe you’ll thank someone in your life who it might be easy to take for granted. Thank a co-worker or a shop keeper or a service worker. And don’t just say “thanks.” Express your gratitude tangibly, extravagantly. Write a note. Give a gift.

Perhaps at your Thanksgiving Day meal, if you share it with friends, you’ll set aside a few minutes to express gratitude. It’s easy enough to go once around the circle and say the obvious things. Go around a couple more times and reach deeper for even more ways to express thanks.

Best of all, spend part of Thanksgiving Day in church, giving thanks to God for all that God has done for us.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to spend a few minutes each week reflecting on life as I write these Forward Today emails. I hope they’re helpful, at least occasionally, in your journey. Blessings, friends.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director