Stop. Breathe. Think. Pray.

By Shannon Youell

My daughter gave me a lovely journal for my last birthday. I have kept journals for years, mostly for thoughts and notes as I read Scripture, am inspired by Scripture,  and am inspired by sermon ideas.

These journals are very messy and I decided I wanted this one to be beautiful, which means I have to take some more thoughtful time while furiously writing my inspirations!

So I started with a sticker:

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just breathe sticker

And then I expanded that thought:

  • Stop
  • Breathe
  • Think
  • Pray

Often, with life so full and busy (who else has come to despise that word–I wonder when humanity made busy such a virtue), I often find that I have done none of those things within the waking hours of my day. Well, of course I have breathed, but not the kind of breath that brings pause.

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Ministry work is daunting at best and often overwhelming when we attempt to use our strength by which to minister. Yet, if we follow the example of our Master, we find Jesus withdrawing to a quiet place, to stop, to breathe, to think, to pray. He comes away knowing He has heard and seen God for the next segment of His journey, of His day, of His hours. Jesus practiced sitting where His soul finds home and so must we. Five or ten minutes a few times throughout the day brings focus and refreshment. It brings clarity and resolve. It invites the Spirit an opportunity to speak and for us to actually hear.

Psalm 1 in my reading this morning speaks of the wisdom of delighting in the law of the Lord and meditating on it. I have always loved this Psalm (well, to be honest, I love most of them!), as it speaks to me of stopping. Of breathing. Of thinking. Of praying. It reminds me that doing this amazing work of God’s Kingdom is not for me to do alone, or you to do alone, but for us to do alongside the God-With-Us who is always present even in the mundane tasks and the daunting to-do lists.

The promise, of course, is that we will be well-watered, refreshed and bear fruit. I am learning (still and again) that when I take these pauses throughout my day, I actually find the work a joy even in the more difficult times, for I am letting my soul find its way home for a “nap.”

Here is how I am practicing this pause in my day’s labour right now:

Stop – Stop means to “arrest” or “suspend.” In the sense of this pause in our day, I would choose “Suspend”—suspend for 10 minutes everything that has been occupying my body, mind and soul. I find notifications distracting, so I switch them off both on my computer and my phone for that time. If you can, leave the environs of what you were doing. Take your work out of your visual field.

Breathe – Deep measured breathing oxygenates the brain, calms the busy-ness, and helps us to refocus. Sue Hunter, our lovely former Alberta Regional Administrator, taught us to breathe in through the nose and count to 4, and then breathe out of the mouth counting to 4. Then to 6 and then 10, until we had a slowed, thoughtful rhythmic breathing. Then replace counting with “speak Lord” as you breathe in and “I’m listening” as you breathe out. Practice this until you sense yourself aware and alert of God’s peace resting on you.

Think – I like shaping this around Philippians 4:8-9: thinking on what is true in my day; what is right in my day right now; what is pure and lovely in the midst of the busyness of the day. Peterson’s Message translation is helpful. “You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

Pray – Philippians continues, “Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” As we’ve spent time thinking and listening to the Spirit, pray those things back: gratitude for what has been realized and repentance for the realization our thoughts that day may have been ugly, unkind, disingenuous. Follow with thankfulness that God’s grace is rich and His goodness nurturing. Approach the next portion of your day by “putting into practice” these things and see God at work weaving you into His song.

As we move into our co-labouring of living out the Gospel of the kingdom of God, these pauses are equally as necessary as the tasks before us, the relationships we live in and bring nurture to, and the sharing of God’s Big Story. This is the soul-care of our own persons, which promises to give us resiliency and joy in joining God in His work in our world.

A Week of Prayer for Church Planting

By Ron Orr

January 18-25 is for many churches a Week of Prayer.

As Canadian Baptists we are participating members of the Canadian Council of Man PrayingChurches that organize this common call to prayer. Church fellowships all around the world participate.

Whatever connections you prefer, start the New Year in prayer. The suggested theme for this year’s prayer is, “Jesus said to her: ‘Give me a Drink.’”

“Give me a drink” is the cry of the many people in Canada who are soul thirsty. Pray that the best and most important news anyone can hear will be spoken into their understanding. Pray that communities of faith—of prayer—will be established amongst each.

Pray that we will grow our neighbourhoods and communities into places of faith, prayer and new churches. I think that it begins when WE pray. We cannot reproduce praying communities if we ourselves are not praying.

Pray that God would stir us into prayer.
Pray for awakening.
Pray for the Christians all around you, but to whom you never speak.
Pray for them though they are of a different language or just a different tradition.
Pray for that group that may rent your facility.

And pray with them.

Pray for Christian unity.

I have been challenged lately by some of the churches in our midst. They meet 2 or 3 hours weekly for pray. Some hold monthly, all night prayer vigils.

Pray for churches that do not yet exist.
Pray for a vision to see them coming.
Pray for leaders to raise them up.
Pray for sacred money from kingdom investors.
Pray for new wineskins.

Pray.

Visit the Our Tribe page for details on various Church Plants and how you can pray for them.

Pray with Us: Crossover

Join us in prayer for Crossover Japanese Church in Calgary. Here is an update from Miyuki Taniguchi:

We need our youth leaders or teachers on Sundays.  As you know, our young people’s first language is English. We sing together at first, then separate into three groups: adults, youth and children. The young people’s leader needs to speak English. Right now, we do not have any youth leader who can lead their youth worship on Sunday.  Please pray that God will give them a good leader and teacher.
Also right now, we have a few non-Christian young men who often come to our church on Sundays. They are planning to go back to Japan in a couple of months. We really hope they will accept Jesus before they go back to Japan. Please pray with us.

Pray with Us: A New Year Ahead

A Prayer for the New Year

Author Unknown.

What shall I ask for the coming year
What shall my watchword be
What should thou do for me, dear Lord
What can I do for thee?

Lord, I would ask for a holy year
Spent in thy perfect will
Help me to walk in thy very steps
Help me to please thee still.

Lord, I would ask for a trustful year
Give me thy faith divine
Taking my full inheritance
Making thy fulness mine!

Lord, I would ask for a year of love
O let me love thee best
Give me the love that faileth not
Beneath the hardest test.

Lord, I would ask for a year of prayer
Teach me to walk with thee
Breathe in my heart the Spirit’s prayer
Pray thou thy prayer in me!

Lord, I would ask for the dying world
Stretch forth thy mighty hand
Thy truth proclaim, thy power display
This year in every land.

Lord, I would ask for a year of joy
Thy peace, thy joy divine
Springing undimmed through all the days
Be thy days of shade or shine.

Lord, I ask for a year of hope
Looking for thee to come
And hastening on that year of years
That brings us home to you.

Pray with Us

Church Planting is all about seeing God continue His act of creation in our hearts and neighbourhoods. Pray this communal prayer, reflecting on your expectation of God’s creative spark in your life and the lives of our Church Plants.

In your time, Creator God
This world was put in place
And in your time
Became beautiful
Through the craftsmanship of your love.
Remind us always
As we look at sunrise
Landscape and tiny child
That at the centre of all things
Is the creative love of God.prayer-2013-3
In your time, Loving God
When we had wandered far
In your perfect time
You embraced the prodigal
Within the security of your arms.
Remind us always
As we look at pain caused
And hardship endured
That at the centre of all things
Is the forgiving love of God.
In your time, Saving God
You walked upon this earth
And in your time
Became one of us
To show what we could become
Remind us always
As we look at our lives
In comparison with yours
That at the centre of all things
Is the saving Grace of God
In your time, Mighty God
You will come in glory
And in your time
Gather the harvest
From one end of this earth to the other
Remind us always
In times of plenty
And in times of famine
That at the centre of all things
Is the love and mercy of God
Amen

Check out our prayer page or share a prayer request with us.

From John Birch’s Advent Resources.

Pray with Us

Let’s continue to lift of our Church Plants in prayer:prayer-2013-1

  • For an emphasis on the lost and the harvest
  • For sufficient and passionate workers
  • For cultural sensitivity
  • For breakthroughs against the strongholds
  • For a safe environment for suffering people
  • That they might become a house of prayer

Check out our prayer page or share a prayer request with us

This prayer list is from the Christian Reformed Church’s prayer guide.

Don’t forget to Pray

Have you been to our prayer page lately? We update the page a few times a month with requests both broad and specific in regards to CBWC Church Planting. Here are a couple of new requests:

  • For clarity and vision of those considering church plants, both urban and rural.
  • That God would speak and inspire during the weekend Greenhills Calgary will be spending at Gull Lake Centre, August 2-5.

If you have a prayer request to share, don’t hesitate to email Cailey at cmorgan@cbwc.ca and she’ll add it to the prayer page.

Connected

A couple of months ago, we published the following article by Joelle Reiniger in our GO WEST! enewsletter. Joelle’s story has been such an encouragement that we’ve decided to post it again here. Now that the weather has improved and there are only a few weeks left of school for the kids, consider how your family can step out and connect with the people in your neighbourhood over the next weeks.

Last year our building fire alarm rang. Guessing correctly that it had simply malfunctioned, my husband Jordan and I reluctantly left our suite to join the group of groggy residents who formed a ring around our highrise apartment complex.Edmonton apartment building

We looked around at a community of strangers, who would likely never have been seen in one place without a fire truck on the way. This scenario could not be more different from the vision of community described by our co-pastor Karen Wilk, always urging us to live out the Biblical mandate to “love your neighbour as yourself.” Our neighbourhood is and likely always will be urban. Jordan and I love our proximity to arts venues, public transit connections and North America’s largest stretch of urban parkland, the North Saskatchewan River Valley.

As a former city hall reporter I have a longstanding interest in civic strategies to develop a sense of community in the city’s core, a passion Jordan shares. He works in the non-profit sector and is continually faced with Edmonton’s social problems including homelessness and the plight of the working poor. Through these experiences, we have come to believe that social isolation is the root of most of our city’s problems.

In North America, we are all too familiar with how difficult it is to combat isolation and loneliness amidst the busyness of our culture. There are limitations in time, but also limitations in space. From the car, to the cubicle to the coffee shop, our social spaces are ideal for filtering out unwanted human encounters, even in public places. This freedom to choose whom to interact with seems especially present downtown. There are 18 stories in our building. Most of the people who we share an elevator ride with, we never see again.

At first, this we didn’t view this as a problem. When we moved into our building, we had as many relationships and commitments as we felt we could manage. Yet, we found Pastor Karen’s teaching about “being” the church in our geographical neighbourhood compelling.

We caught the vision of taking literally the command to love our neighbour and to do so in a diverse community, not bound together by common interests, social class or consumer preferences but by the mere fact that we are people created by God for Him and for each other. Under Karen’s leadership, we began meeting regularly with other members of our church who wanted to participate in the work of God in their neighbourhoods.

Conversations often turned to the practice of hospitality, but as the rest of the group told stories about barbecues, potlucks and block parties, we doubted our built environment was conducive forming these human connections. In a downtown apartment, there is a stark division between public and private space. Other than our laundry, hot tub and fitness rooms, there are no public spaces for friendships to germinate.

With some trepidation, we hosted a Floor 5 Christmas party, just to see what would happen—to see if anybody would show up, if anyone else wanted to put a face to a laundry basket. A few did, and we had a great time, sipping spiked eggnog and swapping funny stories.

One thing led to another and, less than a year later, our neighbours are among the first people we think of when we plan to go out with friends or to invite someone over for drinks or dinner. With some, spiritual connections underpin our social ties. Our next door neighbour, also a Christian, has joined our Bible study. Another spiritually-minded man in our building has suggested forming an organized network to respond to the needs of neighbours as we learn of them.

In retrospect, it feels as though this process happened overnight, but our connection to the community got off to a slow start. We spent the first few months somewhat passively listening to Pastor Karen outline principles of the incarnational church. We spent a lot of time talking about how we hypothetically might connect with our urban neighbourhood.

Then we procrastinated, theorized and talked some more.

The turning point in our journey came a month or two after our Christmas party. We had connected with a handful of neighbours and could actually envision a thriving community in our Soviet-style apartment block. We also realized we could not participate in a Kingdom-centered vision for our community with only one foot in our neighbourhood. Relationships take time and meaningful community involvement was incompatible with our busy lifestyle.

Ironically, we found the time and space, in part, by limiting the scope of our formal church involvement. Our focus shifted away from viewing church as a spiritual fuelling station and as our default social network. We traded this paradigm for a vision of “being” the church in a more organic way in our community.

Increasingly, we came to view our Bible study group as our home church. We started taking communion together, devoting larger segments of our time to prayer, eating meals together and taking responsibility for each other’s welfare. This sense of connectedness naturally fuelled our desire to foster a Biblical model of community in our neighbourhood.

Last month our building fire alarm rang again. I walked around the base of the building looking for Greg, Krista, Dave, Teea, Devin, Jess, Josh, Hélène, Grant, or someone else to chat with while waiting to return to our apartment. When the bell rang, I felt safe. The Cold-War era concrete seemed indestructible, insulating us from the vulnerabilities of newer buildings.

I also felt secure because, this year, Jordan and I have neighbours who know our names and unit number—people who look out for us as we look out for them.

We are insulated, but we are by no means isolated.

This article from From GO WEST! 2.7 courtesy of Forge Canada‘s Missional Voice newsletter.