Amos Smith - Be Still and Listen

July 17, 2018

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"Augustine said that people try to fill that God-shaped hole in the brothel, in the bar, with their spouse, but nothing really satisfies, gives a deep sense of fulfillment and purpose, like a direct experience of God's presence.  "—Amos Smith

Episode 58 of Spirituality for Ordinary People features an interview Amos Smith. Amos writes at his website about Recovering Christianity's Mystic Roots and is the author of Healing The Divide: Recovering Christianity’s Mystic Roots and BE STILL AND LISTEN: Experience the Presence of God in Your Life.

Key Learnings

Having 40 minutes a day for silence and centering prayer, though counter-cultural, ought not be unusual for Christians. Indeed, it is not unusual for the Eastern Church.

Mystics can sometimes be branded as either "deranged" or dangerous to the establishment.

Time away for silence is vital for a deepening relationship with God in Christ.

Spending regular and extended time with God provides the possibility for personal transformation and this has the potential to have a major impact on the lives of the people around you.

Things to Think About

Would you consider "jumping into the deep end" and doing a 10-day silent retreat?

Spiritual Practices Discussed in this Episode

Centering Prayer - See the episode with Rich Lewis for a more detailed description of Centering Prayer

Silent Retreats

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Rachel Schmoyer | Reading Hard Parts of the Bible - a Bible Study on Malachi 1:1-5

June 26, 2018

"It was amazing to me that in this hard part of scriputre, there were things we could immediately apply."—Rachel Schmoyer

Episode 57 of Spirituality for Ordinary People features Rachel Schmoyer. Rachel has a website called "Read the Hard Parts" which focusses on looking at some of the most difficult passages in Scripture and looks to discover what truth we might glean.

Rather than the usual interview format, Rachel and I do an essentially unplanned Bible Study on Malachi 1:1-5:

1 The oracle of the word of the Lord to Israel through Malachi.
2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob; 3 but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” 4 Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; thus says the Lord of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever.” 5 Your eyes will see this and you will say, “The Lord be magnified beyond the border of Israel!”

Key Learnings

Some amazing things come from reading, thinking about, and discussing difficult passages of scripture, especially when we keep an open mind about various ways of looking at a text.

Things to Think About

Who might you read and discuss the Bible with?

Spiritual Practices Discussed in this Episode

  • Reading hard parts of the Bible

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Alicia Brummeler | Everywhere God

June 20, 2018

"When I look beyond my own circumstances and catch these other glimmers of how God is moving and acting in the world and in other peoples' lives, then I realize He is here with me..."—Alicia Brummeler

Episode 56 of Spirituality for Ordinary People features an interview with Alicia Brummeler. In it, we focus on her book, Everywhere God: Exploring the Ordinary Places. We discuss encountering God in when spiritually adrift, having or not having tangible experiences of God, encountering God in rituals, encountering God in literature.

Key Learnings

Having friends who sit with, pray with, or are present with you are so important.

Universalizing spiritual experience, particularly for others, in times of dryness, is not helpful.

Things to Think About

Do we trust that God is, in fact, at work even when we don't seem to experience God?

Spiritual Practices Discussed in this Episode

  • Journaling
  • Reading through the Psalms
  • Being Outside
  • Eating together with family
  • Reading

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John van Sloten | Metallica, Your Job, and God’s Presence Everywhere

June 13, 2018

"There's something about naming God's goodness in a thing that softens your heart toward it."—John van Sloten.

Episode 55 of Spirituality for Ordinary People features an interview with John van Sloten. In it, we focus on three areas: 1) God's presence in popular culture 2) Our jobs as parables for understanding God

The interview is a deep dive into understanding the revelation of God. How is God speaking / or revealing himself.

Key Learnings

There is always an opportunity to learn about or know God.

We are made in the image of a God who works, therefore our jobs are imaging of God.

Things to Think About

Reflect on your work. How is your job a parable for understanding God?

Spiritual Practices Discussed in this Episode

This whole episode is about seeing God everywhere!

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Rich Lewis | What to do in the Silence - The Centering Prayer Episode

June 5, 2018

"God isn't just some outside force looking at me or some infinite force that created the universe but God is actually in me...and I can take these inner nudges and actions into my daily life."—Rich Lewis

How can you actually get closer to God in such a way that you are really experiencing God's presence on a regular basis?

Episode 54 of Spirituality for Ordinary People features an interview Rich Lewis. In it, we focus very specifically on the practice of centering prayer. We go over what it is, how it works, and the four steps you can follow to try centering prayer.

Key Learnings

Centering prayer is a tool or practice that assists you with entering into contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer is purely sitting with God with no agenda - simply being in God's presence.

If you are new to the practice of centering prayer, it is best to try and do it every day for a month before deciding whether it is for you. (This is likely true of any new spiritual practice).

Trusting that if you hear something from God it will return to you. It is better to let the thought go in your time of centering prayer.

Things to Think About

If you were to try Centering Prayer, at what time of the day and where would you plan to try the practice?

Can you try it, even if it is just 1 to 5 minutes, twice a day.

Spiritual Practices Discussed in this Episode

4 Steps of Centering Prayer

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Paul Angone | Spiritual Questions to Ask in Your Twenties

May 29, 2018

"Silence is radical...Getting away from technology, getting away from everything, is radical."—Paul Angone

Twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings continue to long for something more or have a sense that life or the world is not as it should be. How can we do better self-examination, especially when failure, disappointment, tragedy, or struggle is close?

Episode 53 of Spirituality for Ordinary People features an interview with Paul Angone, author of 101 Secrets For Your Twenties and 101 Questions You Need to Ask in Your Twenties. Paul helps people in their twenties and thirties grapple with life in ways that are practical, helpful, and deeply spiritual.

Key Learnings

Knowing your soul values is so important. One must figure out how they interact with God and with the truth of Scripture. It is also important to understand the difference between your strengths and the values that you hold in your heart.

We absolutely need time away, particularly time away from technology, whether it is physically going on a hike or retreat, or whether it is keeping our phones in our pockets in line at the grocery store and allowing a "chance" encounter to happen or just experiencing a few moments of quiet in the midst of everyday life.

Things to Think About

What are the 5 values that are guiding your life on a daily basis?

Are you open to the not so random encounters that God brings into your life?

When are you "getting away" and allowing God to speak into your life?

Spiritual Practices Discussed in this Episode

Paul discusses getting away for times of stillness and also talks about bringing a sense of stillness into everyday life. He also speaks about the authenticity found in the Psalms.

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Dan Stanford | Losing the Cape: The Power of Ordinary in a World of Superheroes

May 15, 2018

"You don't have to have an 'S' on your chest if you have a savior in your heart."—Dan Stanford

North American culture is saturated with the superhero motif. Why is that, and what hopes and needs is the pop culture superhero tapping into? Why do we flock to superhero stories, and what does it mean to embrace ordinary-ness as a better way to life?

Episode 52 of Spirituality for Ordinary people features an interview with Dan Stanford, author, and pastor of The Well Church in Kenosha, WI. Dan's latest book is Losing the Cape: The Power of Ordinary in a World of Superheroes

The discussion in this episode is wide-ranging. Dan doesn't advocate for simply a safe life, claiming we are made for adventure. He believes that God calls ordinary people to serve others in big and small ways. We aren't waiting for a super-hero to save the day, nor are we superheroes with the burden of saving others.

Key Learnings

The people who are willing to do the little things that make the greatest difference over a period of time.

God's got people all over the planet, so begin by making a difference where you are trusting that God has placed you where you are and placed others where they are. Comparison to others can be crippling. We must realize that we are stewards of what God has given us, so being where you are and with the resources you have.

Things to Think About

What are some of the ordinary ways of serving others that you might be called to?

Spiritual Practices Discussed in this Episode

Dan journals on a regular basis, usually starting with Scripture and spending time outside near Lake Michigan.

Their family usually asks a "strategic question" (e.g. what was the best thing that happened today?) for discussion over dinner and they spend time helping each other see God in their every day lives. He also actively looks for opportunities in everyday life to have conversations with his kids about God presence and activity.

Dan also spoke about the freedom to experiment with different ways of approaching his devotional life.

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J. R. Briggs | The Power of Questions for the Spiritual Life

May 8, 2018

 "Good questions can change the trajectory of peoples' futures."—J.R. Briggs

People are asking deep and difficult questions in their lives and there is an inclination in our culture to fixate on easy or quick-fix answers. What does it look like to sit with questions, ask better questions, and how can a focus on questions help us in our walk with Christ?

Episode 51 of Spirituality for Ordinary people features an interview with J.R. Briggs, author, pastor, and founder of Kairos Partnerships. J.R. brings thoughtful reflection, study, wisdom, and encouragement in the area of question asking.

Key Learning

We often seek guidance and direction from God just wanting "the answer." But God's invitation to us is full of delight, wonder, and the unknown.

Curiosity and wonder can be central to journeying with Jesus. We engage in wonder with a mindset of questions rather than only wanting answers.

We study the parables of Jesus, the miracles of Jesus, but rarely do we study Jesus' questions. The gospels record Jesus as asking 325 questions. People asked him 183 questions and he only answered 5-8 of them directly.

Things to Think About

What big question are you living with right now?

What question is God asking you right now?

Spiritual Practices Discussed in this Episode

J.R. uses the Moravian Daily Text  followed by a simple prayer. He journals every day and records five things he is grateful for. He focuses on simple things, giving examples like warmer weather, the taste of the coffee, etc. He also practices Sabbath and finds it helps to guardrail against burnout, reminding him that God doesn't need him.

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Matthew Brough | Episode 50 - The One Year Anniversary

April 3, 2018

Episode 50 celebrates the one year anniversary of the Spirituality for Ordinary People Podcast. Ashley Boychuk joins our host, Matthew Brough, and she interviews him. 

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Peter Bush | On Being Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada

March 27, 2018

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Episode 49 features an interview with Rev. Peter Bush. Peter is serving a one year term as the moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. He is the minister at Westwood Presbyterian Church in Winnipeg and the author of several books. He is passionate about congregations and individuals living the love of Jesus in action and telling the story of Jesus in words.

Peter has a heart for small congregations, having led workshops, coached leadership teams and offered training events to help small congregations thrive in remote, rural, suburban and urban contexts. To this end he has authored two books, In Dying we are Born (Alban, 2008) and with Christine O’Reilly, Where Twenty or Thirty are Gathered (Alban, 2006).

Some of What We Talk About

  • How interactions on social media have been among the most surprising things about his year as moderator.
  • Why his prayers as the moderator have struck such a chord across the Presbyterian Church in Canada.
  • The value of prayers that are timely and responsive to the actual realities of our world and lives.
  • What is it that drives his passion for the number of things he is passionate about.
  • How we need to remember the 1994 confession of the Presbyterian Church to Indigenous People.
  • The importance of having conversation and real relationship with Indigenous Peoples in our neighbourhoods and communities, as congregations and individuals.
  • Why is history so important (including a fun anecdote about James Robertson!) and how it can teach us humility.
  • Loving the Bible and whether there can be connections between devotional life and sermon preparation.
  • Being spiritual fed through reading.
  • The intentionality of writing prayers and having set times to pray.
  • The importance of a diversity of ways to pray.

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