Colossian Blog

Displaying all posts tagged "Practices".
Culture: The Beautiful Things We Hope For
November 22, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Culture: The Beautiful Things We Hope For
Each Colossian Way small group session opens with the group remembering why they're here and acknowledging God's presence. Messy situations, difficult subjects, polarizing conversations, and paralyzing conflict can all draw us into lives of deeper faithfulness to God. Success in the small groups can be measured by if we grew in love of God and love of neighbor through the course of the ten weeks together. These important tenets are also key parts of the internal culture at The Colossian Forum. We practice opening the day with morning prayer as a staff team, which helps us remember why we're here and acknowledge God's presence together. But prayer and meetings aren't the only components of a strong organizational culture. Here's a peek inside the curtain of what makes TCF tick in our organizational culture. Intentionally strengthening the organizational culture is an important priority as The Colossian Forum continues to grow. We developed the TCF Attitude to touch on the key aspects of our culture: a hungry spirit, humble heart, and being people of joy. We want to be a team that embodies a sensitive, efficient, innovative, and enjoyable workplace. Hungry Spirit Exhibiting a hungry spirit indicates the desire to grow more deeply into the image of Christ by pursuing excellence and a strong commitment to our mission of conflict as opportunity. We see the divisive issues we engage in as places where the church can do better and we're hungry to make that happen. A hungry spirit also involves displaying an urgent desire to manifest Christ's peace in the world. We actively seek to be the best in what we do and engage in responsible risk-taking. TCF is hungry to do more, learn more, and broaden the scope of our mission. The shadow side of that hunger is the high pressure and toll on relationships. It can be easy to become discouraged, be hungry for things we haven't been given, and demanding God to do things that fit in our agenda. Humble Heart Alongside a hungry spirit lies a humble heart, which means that at TCF embodies Mark 12:30-31 by exhibiting a love of God and love of neighbor. We delight in the different gifts and desires God's put on our team, and work hard to embody our mission of conflict as opportunity. A humble heart is also respectful, disciplined, and respectful. We genuinely care for one another and humbly submit to the mission of The Colossian Forum. We also recognize that we don't have all the answers and happily connect with partners who can help us broaden and implement our thoughts, worldview, and mission. Sometimes it's hard to have a humble heart when pursuing excellence and having a fear of failure. Often it's easy to rely on pride and control instead of submitting to the Lord in humility. People of Joy Underlying the hungry spirit and humble heart is that at our core, we are people of joy who truly delight in God and each other. We embrace the staff team family and have great hope that we can live into our remarkable mission. We do our best to not take ourselves too seriously--after all, it's God's world, not ours. Our team also works to maintain perspective and engage in healthy spiritual practices. It's a true joy to celebrate God's work in us through both successes and failures. Even the most joyful among us can struggle with fear of failure and the pressures of overwork, and it's no different at TCF. It's hard to accommodate the time for celebration and joy with the expectation of task completion. It's a balance to incorporate joy into our work life, but one we're committed to integrating better. It's easy to forget that how we act comes under our service to Christ and that we are living this out as Christians. We hope this glimpse into the hopes and fears behind how we work at The Colossian Forum helps point to the beautiful things we hope for.
Consumption and Conflict Avoidance
November 8, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Consumption and Conflict Avoidance
Well, friends, it’s November. Fall colors. Crisp, cool air. Football. Family. Thanksgiving. And yes, Black Friday. The shopping season is upon us once again, calling us all to order our time and schedules to the rhythms of super sales and dynamite deals, hurtling us toward Christmas at breakneck speed. How is it that Thanksgiving—memorializing a surprising friendship that significantly aided the tenuous survival of the Plymouth Plantation—is now seen as the launch of the shopping season? Perhaps shopping provides a welcome distraction from all the underlying family tensions that the Thanksgiving season inevitably raises. It’s now common when discussing holiday plans to hear friends worry about how they will get through those pressures unscathed. SNL hilariously memorialized these tensions when a family, hopelessly mired in ideological warfare, is rescued by their common love for Adele’s hit song “Hello.” I think there’s a significant link here between conflict and consumption – be it of gluttonous quantities of food, Black Friday specials, or Adele’s trendy tunes. On the surface, these distractions save us from dealing with the deep divides we most fear. While we are filling our stomachs, schedules, and credit cards, our lives are marked with a scarcity of love and life-giving relationships. We live fearful and shallow lives, unable to discuss the things we care about most. Beneath this lies the Nietzschean presumption that the core of the world is conflict, not communion. As original a thinker as Nietzsche was, his perspective was hardly new. Augustine engages the problem in relation to the Roman Empire. The Pax Romana (peace of Rome) mercilessly suppressed dissent through fear and violence. Rome determined the shape of life for Augustine’s known world, structuring time (July for Julius, August for Augustus), family (the gods’ love patronage), and forms of fellowship (Colosseum for blood sport anyone?). In his work, The City of God, Augustine describes the world not as determined by the coercive power of Rome but as two cities, or two stories played out simultaneously. The old story of fear, conflict, and death, was the City of Man controlled by the narrative of sin and human fallibility (fallen-ness?). But Augustine saw a hope-filled tale; the City of God upstaging the Roman City of Man. Two cities. Two cultures. Two understandings of one world. These cities overlapped and competed against each other. But the fate of each city was already sealed hundreds of years earlier, by a backwater prophet from a backwater province, supposedly crushed under the Pax Romana. Problem was, he didn’t stay dead. And in his resurrection, we see the City of Man’s principalities and powers destroyed; death dethroned; fear and conflict defeated. They no longer have the last word. In the resurrected Christ, we see a foretaste of what’s to come – the reason for the hope that is in us (I Peter 3:15). Yet, there are still two storylines playing out and we live with a foot in both worlds. Jesus shows us the trajectory of the new narrative from within the old. He’s grafted us into his people. He’s made Israel’s story our story. In fact, he’s grafted us into himself, as part of his very own body. And as his body, our lives are ordered by new time toward a future full of hope. We’ve also been given a new calendar (the liturgical calendar) by which to order our lives around his birth, life, death, resurrection, and gift of his Spirit. We’ve been adopted into a new family (the church) and offered new forms of fellowship through worship, the sacraments, sacred celebrations. Our new family calendar culminates not in Thanksgiving and the shopping season but in a celebration of Christ the King Sunday (Google it), a celebration of Christ’s Kingship over all creation. As God’s people, we celebrate the victorious City of God right in the middle of the City of Man. Together, as his body, we celebrate Christ’s ultimate victory over fear, conflict, sin, and death, and the vindication of hope, communion, life, and love. And we get to be a part of it! But we don’t do alone. We can only live in liturgical time, Christ’s time, as we order our lives to Christ’s life together. As one, we celebrate by confessing and believing that Jesus Christ is Lord and our conflicts are overcome. Although, we still live with a foot in both worlds. I invite you to live primarily as citizens of the City of God—citizens who have been reconciled to God and one another through Christ’s victory. And as you celebrate the rituals of Thanksgiving Thursday, remember that first there was Christ the King Sunday. Worship and reconciliation replace consumption and conflict avoidance.
Life in Formation: Spiritual Formation 101
November 1, 2017 | Jennifer Vander Molen
Life in Formation: Spiritual Formation 101
We tend to think that more information will solve our problems. But you can’t read up on marathons and then go out and run 26 miles without training. Likewise, we can’t expect to live a Christ-shaped life without engaging in discipleship. At The Colossian Forum, we’re helping people move beyond stockpiling information to intentionally allowing God’s spirit to form them, especially in pressured situations. Godly formation is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It occurs when we allow the Spirit to guide what we participate in and how we participate. Through practice, we can grow to be more like Christ. Living an unintentional life is much like shifting your car into drive and allowing it to steer itself. You’ll still go in a direction, but probably not a good one! How do we practice spiritual formation? Start by examining the practices you already inhabit. Are they moving you in the right direction—to a deeper love of God and neighbor? Are you displaying the fruit of the Spirit in everyday situations? Are you living a life worthy of the call you’ve been given in Christ? Next, consider if a few of your current activities or habits can be altered, re-directed, or replaced in order to steer your spirit in a more life-giving direction. Wake up and visit a prayer website or read Scripture instead of immediately scrolling through your newsfeed. Or begin the day in prayer, asking God to set your priorities instead of looking through your to-do list or calendar. Intentional Christ-forming practices also ready you for times of conflict. Rather than marshaling your well-honed argument or information arsenal to win against your neighbor, ask what it would take to bring this person one step closer to God. We believe the church can be more beautiful—not only for us in the church but also for the watching world. We long for something better for ourselves and for our Christian communities. That “something better” is the goal of Christ-empowered formation. What about you? What are some ongoing God-centered routines, traditions, and habits in your life? How do they nurture your spiritual sensitivity and growth? What do they look like day-to-day? Let us know; we'd love to hear about it!
Being Faithful, Hopeful, Loving People
October 11, 2017 | Michael Gulker
Being Faithful, Hopeful, Loving People
The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released a study a few weeks ago on the shifting landscape of religious realities in the United States. What it found isn’t especially surprising: the majority of people in this country are religiously unaffiliated. A few additional highlights: White Christians now account for fewer than half of the public. White evangelical Protestants are in decline—along with white mainline Protestants and white Catholics. America’s youngest religious groups are all non-Christian. Christian circles are filled with many hand-wringing articles, studies, and sermons about how to make your community more accessible and welcoming. Despite the attraction and truth of the gospel, people keep leaving the church. The implications for our culture and society can appear bleak: how can we expect to uphold moral and ethical standards when most people in the U.S. don’t even believe in Jesus? We cry out for solutions. We bemoan and fixate on the challenges facing the church in our society. But the prophet Ezekiel reminds us that we, as the body of Christ, are God’s people and God promises rescue, return, and life from ruin. “I will give them a single heart and I will put a new spirit in them…. Then they shall be my people and I shall be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19-20). Despite what we see in our culture—people leaving the faith, conflict, pride, dissension, protests—there remain faithful shepherds tending to God’s flock. And I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside many of them as they’ve graced us with their involvement in The Colossian Way. In these Colossian Way partners, leaders, coaches, and participants, I see that the faithfulness of shepherds continues to breed life and hope in our world. Certainly, like lost sheep, people still walk away. But God calls back the lost sheep and celebrates their return with a party—a beloved child has come home! Our job is to be faithful, hopeful, loving people along the way—shepherding is a life-long call. We count it sheer joy to play a small role in supporting these faithful shepherds. I pray this gives you hope and reassurance today.
The Practice of Praying for Our Enemies
September 6, 2017 | Michael Gulker
The Practice of Praying for Our Enemies
We’re shifting into a new season. After Labor Day, the rhythms of autumn take hold: vacations are over, school is back in session, church activities kick off, traffic snarls resume, and the busyness continues. On top of it all, we continue to face an onslaught of despairing headlines, from the racial unrest in Charlottesville, to the catastrophic flooding in Texas, and now the changes to DACA. I’m sure I’m not the only one a bit anxious and overwhelmed as we face the cadence of fall. It’s easy to get scattered and fall away from the practices and structures that support our souls. Here’s a suggestion: don’t. That’s an aspirational exhortation. I regularly fall off the wagon this time of year, and it’s usually not until I and everyone around me is completely miserable that I finally cry out for help. I simply don’t do well without regular rhythms of prayer, journaling, and scriptural meditation. As embodied creatures, we are deeply affected by the structures and activities that fill our lives. It’s a fairy tale to think otherwise. One of the practices that sustains me is reading the lectionary. While only one of the churches I attend follows the lectionary (I’m Reformed-Anabaptist, or Anabaptist-Reformed, and I love both my churches too much to give up either!), I am regularly blessed by attending to the cycle of Christ’s life throughout the year. Romans 12:9-21 is particularly apt this week (I encourage you to read it if you haven’t recently). Paul, sounding quite a bit like Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, encourages us to “hold fast what is good,” and “persevere in prayer,” and, so far as we are able, “live peaceably with all.” Paul tops it off with a reminder that vengeance is the Lord’s and our responsibility is (yes, you guessed it) enemy love. Not my favorite activity, which, I’m guessing, is why Paul reminds me of it. Enemy love rarely makes our top ten list of desirable Christian activities, but perhaps it ought to, especially given our ridiculously polarized society. In times when our attention, energy, and emotions are spread widely and thinly, it’s imperative we remember to focus on loving God and loving our neighbor—and, oh yeah, our enemies too. My prayer and challenge for us this month is to integrate praying for our enemies into our new rhythms of the season. Of course, this isn’t possible on our own. We need to continue to pray together that the Holy Spirit would do a new thing in us, and that Christ’s peace would reign for the world to see. And today, we can start with our enemies.
What Does Practicing Virtue Look Like? A Study of Prudence
August 30, 2017 | Trey Tirpak
What Does Practicing Virtue Look Like? A Study of Prudence
One of the most important virtues for us to practice is the virtue of prudence. Contrary to popular belief, prudence doesn’t mean being stingy or too scared to act. Prudence is the practice of wisdom or seeing rightly.   Practicing the virtue of prudence is akin to actively resisting impulsive actions, like devouring that whole chocolate cake. Or not letting fearful and prideful passion overrun you in an anxious situation. Practicing prudence can also mean resisting stubbornness. We do these things until it becomes second nature to us. It’s wise not to eat the whole chocolate cake--that’s prudence. Let me give you an example of someone who practiced the virtue of prudence: In the movie Billy Elliot, a boy named Billy tries to be a boxer. He knew what boys did with their pastime: boys box. Those are the facts. There’s one small flaw: he’s horrible at boxing. One day Billy sees the ballet class going on next door. As he’s looking in at the class, Mrs. Wilkinson, the instructor, invites him in. She quickly sees that Billy has the capability to become a prolific ballet dancer. For Billy and his family, this can’t be true; boys don’t dance, they box. Those are the facts. Every impulse and passion of Billy’s community says that boys can’t be ballet dancers. The community is stubborn in what they think they know the truth is and should be. But it’s Mrs. Wilkinson’s good habit, practicing prudence, that enables her to see the truth that Billy isn’t a boxer, but an amazing dancer. Through practicing the virtue of prudence, Mrs. Wilkinson was able to show the truth that Billy was made to dance. What ended up happening was that the rest of their community came to more fully know both truth and love. In their conflict, a good habit got them to a new place they never knew was possible. Practicing virtues are the way that liberates us to actually know truth and love. It liberates us from our old selves which are impulsive, passion-driven, and stubborn. Practicing prudence allows the Holy Spirit to get to us. It’s letting the Holy Spirit lead us to where we too can be liberated of our own ideas of who we think God is. That’s what The Colossian Way is designed to do: liberate us from speaking past each other and missing out on truth and love. Come and Dance Friends, God is always speaking. Just like in the beginning, He’s speaking and creating something new, this time he’s making us anew.  He’s speaking through the Bible, but the Holy Spirit is also communicating to us as through prayer and through each other. Come join this dance, and learn to dance with truth and love.