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Passionate Called Holy Equipped Joyful Loving Learning Authentic
These eight words, so simple on a page, yet when they are lived out daily they will change your heart and the hearts of those around you. A Faithful Heart is an eight-week journey into these words. Follow along and find yourself strengthening your heart and experiencing God in a powerful way. In the pages of this book, Sally Dyck combines Scripture, engaging stories, and the faith...
Passionate Called Holy Equipped Joyful Loving Learning Authentic
These eight words, so simple on a page, yet when they are lived out daily they will change your heart and the hearts of those around you. A Faithful Heart is an eight-week journey into these words. Follow along and find yourself strengthening your heart and experiencing God in a powerful way. In the pages of this book, Sally Dyck combines Scripture, engaging stories, and the faith of Mary to encourage women to grow and share their heart.
Experience A Faithful Heart on your own or as part of a community of women who want to open themselves up to the richness of God's daily presence.
A separate Leader Guide is available order item #9781426710834
Challenge for Week 1 This week, as you find yourself in an ordinary place or surrounding, practice seeing the presence of God. Recall what you see or sense, and journal about it or share the experience with a loved one or someone in the group.
Week One Passionate: Beloved of God
Do you see God in your life every day?
When we can sense and feel and therefore know the presence of God, it is the tangible presence of God in our lives. We touch, feel, perceive, sense, recognize, and notice God around and within us; God's presence is something that is obvious, evident, and plain. I want a passionate faith where I deeply sense God's presence in my life.
Passionate is a confusing word, especially for people who are introverted. Passionate often implies a proscribed way in which one experiences God: a jumping up and down, raising your hands, and shouting out loud way of experiencing God. That may be unfair to the word passionate; its true meaning describes something that is ardent, fervent, and deeply felt. I want to deeply feel and experience God's presence. I want my expression of it to be authentic to whatever it is that I perceive, sense, and notice about God's presence in my life. Today. Any day. Any time.
But why is it that sometimes we feel the presence of God and sometimes we don't? Why is it that some people seemingly sense God's presence in their lives more readily than others?
N. Graham Standish suggests that just as there are multiple intelligences, such as emotional, musical, and intellectual intelligences—or ways of knowing—so there is a mystical intelligence "which has to do with how aware we are of God's purpose, presence, and power." It's intriguing to think that just as people have varying degrees of intellectual, emotional, musical, and other intelligences, so we might also have a varying degree of mystical intelligence. A mystical intelligence simply means that we have a way of knowing God's presence through our mind, our senses, our feelings, and our intuition.
Initially it might sound like we either have it or we don't, but Standish doesn't describe it that way. Likewise, the theory of multiple intelligences doesn't suggest that we either have one or another, but that we have a degree of any of the intelligences and we can cultivate them in our lives so as to enhance our ways of knowing, learning, and experiencing life.
Throughout our readings, journaling, and prayer this week, we will explore the ways in which we experience the palpable, passionate presence of God in life's situations, look for God's goodness even when life is difficult and stressful, and seek God's will in our lives.
Day 1 Mary's Faithful Heart
You Are Beloved by God
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you!" (Luke 1:26-28)
Mary experienced the passionate presence of God in a messenger, Gabriel. In a specific time, in a specific region and town, a woman with a specific name and family connections received a message. In her everyday, ordinary life, God was present to Mary and God's presenting message to Mary was that she was beloved (or favored) and that God was with her. Repeat after me:
I, (your name)____________________, am beloved by God, and God is with me today!
Later when Jesus was baptized, he too heard the voice of God saying, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22). God doesn't send us out into our everyday lives without the assurance that we're beloved and that God is with us to face the events of our lives.
Messengers of God's love don't usually appear before us as celestial beings with gigantic wings. They are usually people that God sends our way with the message that we are loved, appreciated, and respected.
Who are the messengers of God's love in your life?
To whom can you be a messenger of God's love?
Surely the Presence of the Lord Is in This Place
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for [God]." (Romans 12:1-2, The Message)
Experiencing the passionate presence of God means that we seek to sense, notice, and perceive God around us. We stop confining God to some activities, such as going to church, reading the Bible, and praying, and begin to sense God's presence in anything or anywhere.
As Eugene Peterson in his paraphrase of Romans 12 calls it, giving my "everyday, ordinary life" as an offering to God means that God meets me where I'm at whether or not it's a place I would expect to see or experience God. It means that as a result of God meeting me where I'm at, God transforms the way I see the world around me—my friends and family as well as strangers, my work and daily tasks of life, the beauty of creation, and the world's suffering.
It's pretty easy for me to see God in the face of a child, a loved one, or someone I'm called to serve (well, mostly). But sometimes it's the stranger's face that proves difficult for me, or the awkward and painful experience. But if in fact we can cultivate a mystical intelligence, then we need to practice seeing God wherever we are.
One day I was flying to attend a meeting, and there was a layover at an airport that got extended due to bad weather. I had gotten up early that morning to catch my flight, so I hadn't had the opportunity to go for my regular morning run. As a result, I hadn't gone through my prayer routine, which I do while running. So I decided to "walk" the airport, saying my prayers silently as I did.
As I was praying, I began to sing (in my mind, I assure you), "Surely the Presence of the Lord Is in This Place." Why did that song come into my mind in the midst of a busy, crowded airport?
"Surely the presence of the Lord is" in the meadow where I normally run and where I had recently come upon two white-tailed deer as they galloped parallel to me on the edge of the meadow near the woods. Surely the presence of the Lord is there.
"I can feel [God's] mighty power and [God's] grace" in the beauty of the sunrise, the beautiful flowering trees, or even the pristine snow-covered woods; but here in a busy, crowded airport?
"I can hear the brush of angels' wings" in the wind in the trees, the song of the birds, and the running creek that I cross, but here in a busy, crowded airport? Angels' wings here? Frankly, when you're flying, you don't want to think about hearing angels' wings!
"I see glory on each face." Suddenly, when those words came to my mind, I began to see the people around me ... differently. People were coming and going, some undoubtedly sad as they headed for a funeral, and others joyous as they anticipated reunions with family and friends. Business people were talking frantically on their phones as their planes were delayed or canceled. A mother with five children under the age of six, elderly people and folks with broken legs being transported in wheelchairs, people of all sizes and shapes and colors as well as people who appeared to represent many different religions comprised the busy, crowded airport.
Suddenly I began to recognize the presence of the Lord in that place and on their faces! God is present in unlikely places, busy places, and places where we might not expect to see or recognize God.
When have you seen the presence of God in an ordinary place or experience in life?
Where do you need to practice seeing the presence of God?
"So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective. Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life-even though invisible to spectators—is with Christ in God. He is your life." (Colossians 3:1-3, The Message)
N Graham Standish describes one of the elements of mystical intelligence as "an acceptance and expectation of providence." Mystical intelligence is simply a way of describing how we have a way of knowing God's presence through our mind, our senses, our feelings, and even our intuition. When we cultivate a sense of God's presence in our lives, we look for God all around us and expect to see and experience God's goodness in our lives and world.
I heard about a woman who would take her dog for a walk each morning. As they were walking through a grove of trees, a squirrel fell out of the tree right in front of the dog. Dog heaven! But the remarkable thing about the experience was that on subsequent walks, every time they came to that place in the grove of trees, the dog would perk up with expectation and literally quiver with anticipation that something good could happen!
In a sense, that's what it means to expect that God provides goodness in our lives. We look for the goodness, even when we experience suffering or tragedy. Years ago my extended family experienced a horrible tragedy that resulted with two members of our family dying. It was a devastating experience that forever impacted us.
But as we prepared for this double funeral, my mother shared a list she had made of how God had been in the midst of it. My definition of tragedy is that God doesn't intend for it to happen—I would never say that God willed or intended for this tragedy to happen—but I believe in the midst of the worst of life, even in dying, God is present and sometimes even more palpable because in our darkest times we look for every glimmer of light.
God's goodness may be in the silence rather than the speech, in the edges rather than the center of things, in the healing rather than the untouched.
When do you expect, even anticipate, that you will experience the goodness of God?
When have you experienced the passionate, felt presence of God in the midst of life's worst?
Being Reminded of God's Goodness
"Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see—how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him." (Psalm 34:8, The Message)
Three women—a Muslim, a Jew, and a Christian—came together after 9/11 to better understand each other's faiths. In the process, each of them experienced a deepening of her faith. Priscilla Warner, the Jewish woman in the triad, was standing in line for pizza one day when she thought about how her journey with these other two women had taken her to new and unexpected places in her spiritual life. She felt a sense of God's presence in her life in a real and personal way. The presence of God was as perceptible as the smell of the tomato sauce! It nearly overcame her and brought tears to her eyes as she contemplated a sense of God's goodness in her life in so many ways. Right in the pizza shop, she began to recite a "personal credo," what she believed about the goodness of God:
I believe that God is the goodness that exists inside each and every human being, every animal, every flower, and every miracle of God's creation. I believe that God is a force that binds us together, showing up in the moments when people make unexpected, magical connections with each other. God challenges us, I believe, to become our best selves, even in the toughest times, when beauty and goodness seem to be mysteriously elusive, overshadowed by excruciating pain and evil.
I would describe this as a mystical experience or even a religious experience that spoke to her in a life-changing way. Right there in a pizza shop! "I will do my very best to enjoy my life," she promised herself, a person who was often anxious and worried about many things.
Have you ever been "filled up" with a sense of the goodness of life and God? Where were you when this happened?
Are you someone who is often anxious and worried about many things? What's a reminder of God's goodness in your daily life that could help you do your very best to enjoy life?
The Quilt of Your Life
"We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)
Standish cites another element of mystical intelligence as "a passionate desire to make God's will a priority." We may strongly desire God's will in our lives, but we don't always know what it is or how to figure it out. We might feel like there's only one path, yet so many people I know have taken some detours along the way to getting where they are that it's hard to believe that the detours aren't part of the path! I believe that God's will is that we take what we have in life and make something of it that is good and pleasing to ourselves, to others, and also to God—an offering of our lives to those around us and God.
Eliza Calvert Hall wrote a best-selling novel in 1907, entitled Aunt Jane of Kentucky. The main character, Aunt Jane Parrish, seeks and reflects on the everyday tasks that women do, especially the task of quilting, in such a way that speaks to larger meanings in life. In a dialogue between Aunt Jane and her niece, she makes this observation:
"Did you ever think, child, how much piecin' a quilt's like livin' a life?" Aunt Jane asks her niece. Then she explains in plain, heartfelt language about picking out calico, "caliker," and patterns. A firm believer in free will, Aunt Jane makes a case that every person is in charge of her own life, whatever fate the Lord provides. "The Lord sends us the pieces," Aunt Jane goes on, "but we can cut 'em and put 'em together pretty much to suit ourselves, and there's a heap more in the cuttin' out and the sewin' than there is in the caliker."
Aunt Jane seems to be suggesting that God gives us the "pieces" of our lives—our childhood experiences, the formative years of our faith, our relationships, where we live, when we live, our physical bodies and the joys and challenges they present us with, our interests and our personalities shaped by nature and nurture, the people throughout our lives. The whole package of pieces then is ours to put together into a life of meaning and purpose.
Furthermore, the Amish believe that in every quilt given to newlyweds, there must be darker, more somber tones to remind the couple that not all of life is going to happy. So our "caliker" is both bright and somber.
What colors dominate the quilt of your life?
What are some of the pieces that you are so grateful that are in your quilt of life?
Excerpted from A Faithful Heart by Sally Dyck Copyright © 2010 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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