Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Retreat for Two

Keri and I just returned from our second silent retreat through our spiritual formation program (a program focusing on what sanctification looks like in a believer's life). This retreat piggybacked off our Intensive Journey and Inward Retreat class--which we've simply dubbed "Retreat". This class focuses on the dynamics of personal and group retreat.

To integrate our study we were to choose a partner for whom we would create a 48 hour silent retreat.  We used the dynamics we learned in class to draft a personal interview (see Retreat Questionnaire) and use that information to prayerfully structure a retreat for them to meet with God. We also spent time in prayer together, talking over areas through intentional questions of life-history, vulnerability and value. The interview incorporated things like:
  • Temperament                
  • Time 
  • Transitions and New Experiences
  • Health
  • Social and Home Life
  • Distractions
  • Basic Needs
  • History
  • Focused Intimacy with God
  • Assumptions/Expectations
  • Experiential Knowledge of yourself
  • Silence
  • Defenses
  • Direction
We chose a specific Retreat Location for them, that suited their needs (dry/wet, beach/mountains, cheap/expensive etc)  . We structured readings, questions, prayers, scriptures, activities (i.e. walking, sitting, journaling) to mediate interaction with God. If you are interested in going on retreat, please take a look at Keri's Retreat Brochure titled "Finding and Creating Space for Rest". 

Keri and I chose to be partners for multiple reasons, but the main one was that we wanted to press into these things honestly and deeply in our marriage (which is a big reason we're in this program at all). And, having someone who knows our struggles by experience, allows the issues prayed over on retreat to bear in honesty and practice in our daily relationship. Who else better to help you ask God the tough questions, and to be a place for the answers to be worked out than your spouse?

Here is a piece of our retreat and our reflections from our time at Mary and Joseph Retreat Center, in Rancho Palos Verdes....


A passage of Scripture written into my Retreat to meditate on was Revelation 2:4, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Marriage has been a wonderful experience of drawing closer to Jesus and Him showing me His love in deeper and intimate ways. Yet, my devotion to Jesus as my first love has been challenging to grasp how to have “two loves.” Though I see how God has brought Dave and my union together, I have also wrestled with personal relationship with Jesus and relationship with Jesus through marriage. That being said, using a long set aside time to journal/process and discern with Jesus was so wonderful... Through the guided questions and “holy tangents”, God led me down various paths of discovering where my heart has been, where He has been, and some of the deeper issues lurking. Not realizing I was writing so much, I ended up with 24 journal pages of prayer, filled with questions, unexpected tangents, and times where He spoke. In the end, I did not feel like anything had been solved, or an answer was given that guided me towards the next step to take, but rather I received merely a peace “that surpassed my understanding” (Phil.4:7). I had a peace knowing that God knows my heart, He can handle all of me, He validates me as His child, and all He was asking of me was to just be. Simply going through the journey lifted some burdens, tuned little parts of my heart more to Him, and reminded me of the sweetness of extended time in His presence. As we learned in class, Retreat is a time of “rekindling the love of our first love.” What a blessing that this was my experience.


In the midst of my retreat, Keri planned for me to pray over the things that God loved about me and see what He brings up. I followed the pattern in her instructions—go to the first spot, seek stillness, pray over the options, see what comes up, then head back, pick up bible, pen, journal, and go to a new spot. The heavy fog of morning had lifted, but it was still a grey, damp day. My spot was in the garden, a lovely tan gravel path that looped through flowers, trees, stones and grass. The questions about God's love for me were extremely hard to engage on with Jesus. The prompts were wonderful, but immediately I felt dryness in my heart. Why isn't God affirming and loving me? Isn't this His chance? I wondered if I had expectations on Him. God spoke to me, but it felt, inconsequential, or somewhat meaningless—like He was there but wasn't. ... While praying I realized my expectations are a way that I avoid discipline through disappointment and instead enter a cycle of feeling unknown. .There was an immediate sense of relief—for the vice at the core allowed me to put up these expectations which kept me from God. I was putting up expectations to protect myself, i.e. “I hope you’ll love me like ‘_____’ because that is the way I really want to feel loved”... I had placed my own feelings of mistrust on God and smeared my image of Him—and I wasn't learning from Him as a result. This became a huge area of anxiety in my heart, and I feel the Spirit opening me to that area of discipline, learning, trust and freedom.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Confused and far from God

We live in a highly rational culture. Everyone has reasons for what they do. (or at least think they do!). Things like statistics, science and logic fuel our reasons for living the way we do. Even now science has reasons for appreciating beauty, playing and even forgiving! These are things that people used to do without thought, yet now they are being justified by reason. Whether or not we know it yet, we're culturally in a place of longing for the irrational. 

Francis Shaffer says, "Whether it is the existentialist speaking,...or eastern mysticism...[or the drug addict]...we find a uniform need for an irrational experience to make some sense of life."

God often uses various situations in life to bring us to the edge of rationality; to bring us to Someone bigger than us. There are lots of ways to categorize how God does this, but one helpful way is through orientation, disorientation and reorientation. This is a simple way to address the experiences God is bringing you through. 

Orientation--areas God is doing something completely new in your life. Areas of conversation, previously depraved or lost. 

Disorientation--areas that are in disrupting confusion. Areas of upheaval, churning. Areas that feel irrational and out of control.

Reorientation--areas  that God is bringing renewal. Areas of rest, confirmation, direction, trust, and steadfast peace. 

God is desire to bring us to a personal encounter with Jesus. It is hard to rationalize how or why or when, but allowing God to dwell in irrational categories will give Him room to be Himself: infinite and good. And we may just realize that "in Him we live and move and have our being".

  • *borrowing Demarest’s paradigms for structuring The Seasons of the Soul

  • Talk to the Lord about each of these things:

     1. Where do you see orientation in your life right now? That is, what is God doing that is brand new? Or, what was your time of orientation to the Christian life like? (20 min)

     2. Where do you see disorientation in your life right now? That is, what is disruptive and confused or changing? What are the struggles or doubts? (20 min)

     3. Where do you see reorientation in your life right now? What is being renewed? What is being deepened? (20 min)

    Friday, April 5, 2013

    Prayer Projects

    A powerful part of our program at the Institute of Spiritual Formation is prayer projects. They are assigned weekly as an hour a prayer where we intentionally address specific areas of our formation with God. There are usually 4-5 questions to provoke reflection. At the end we journal what God has done in the time which helps to integrate and reflect on the experience.

    Though one can learn these things apart from a project like these, this is an intentional way of encountering the living God through personal life. This has begun to shaped our prayer lives in a few ways:

    Establishes Past as a Work of God:
    Re-examining our lives with the Spirit of God often brings up unplanned things, also it establishes our past as a work of God (we often assume He hasn't participated in our past, other than allowing it!), and grants divine significance to seemingly ordinary moments.

    Starts Prayerful Conversation:
    One of the greatest obstacles in prayer happens when we present God with the image of ourselves we want Him to see, rather that who we really are in truth. Praying over areas of our lives opens us to conversation with God. These types of conversations intensify His relevance and involvement in our daily lives.

    Living with the Living God:
    As we talk with Him, we learn to live with Him. This gives us immediate experiential access to His truths from scripture. We learn to discern His voice from our own (and other competing voices in the world). And as we experience His love, we also experience Him lifting sin, shame and guilt off our shoulders in truth.

    *We will post the prayer projects for our Spring semester for the next few weeks, please join us if you'd like in praying over these areas of life!

    Here is Prayer Project #1

    One Hour:
    a.            Present yourself to the Lord.  What is in your heart these days?  (15 min)
    b.            What did you hope your journey would be as you started following Christ?  What were you hoping for?  What was your roadmap?  (15 min)
    c.            What has the Spirit done in you since coming following Christ?  What has your journey been?  (15 min)
    d.            Be open to the Lord and listen.  What comes up?  (15 min) 

    Wednesday, April 3, 2013

    Spring Semester Update

    Homework at Creek Park
    We have been reading lots of books this Semester!! With 4 classes our load has been large! Yet, each semester our classes have blended and overlapped in material, which has been helpful in our learning process. This is why we are quite a bit behind at posting what we have been studying and learning, but don't worry, we want to catch up now that it's Easter Break. Here are the 4 classes we are taking:

    Developmental Spirituality and Contemplative Prayer
    Just like studying development of humans, from infants to old age, we are studying the "developmental" process of the Christian life. The journey is different for everyone, but we are learning the ways our spirituality develops from those that grow up in the church to those that become Christians later in life. Though the Spirit works differently in all people's lives, there are certain ways we can learn and understand the process of "growing in Christ".

    Psychopathology and Personality Theory
    Here we are studying what "abnormal" means physically, socially, emotionally, psychologically, developmentally, cognitively, behaviorally, etc. We will also be studying personality theory, i.e. how you've become who you are.

    We are learning what it means to go on "retreat", what "retreat" means in-and-of-itself, how to plan a personal retreat, individual retreat for someone else, group retreat, silent retreat, etc. Dave and I each get to plan a retreat for each other, go on the 48 hour retreat that we planned, and then write-up a paper on how the retreat went.

    Theology 2: Study of Works of God, Man, Angels, and Sin
    Though this is an independent study class, this has been one of our favorite classes this semester. The books we are reading are challenging and foundational as we continue our study of humanity, sin, God, and angels. Reading articles by Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, Edwards, Wesley, Calvin, etc.  are giving us a broad understanding of how Christian History has shaped our study of God.

    Monday, April 1, 2013

    Grace & Easter

    On our way to Grace!

    Today was our first day at Grace! We recently accepted the position of Assistant Youth Directors at our church, Grace EV Free. We are STOKED for the opportunity to work with the Junior High and High School Youth Group. Our main role will be discipling/shepherding the Core Group leaders, being apart of the teaching rotation, and partnering with the Pastor of Youth Ministries- Jackson Randall. We feel extremely blessed that we get this opportunity at our church and we are looking forward to getting to know the youth and leaders more.


    We just had Easter with both of our families together at the Mellis'. We had a blast hanging out as family, laughing, chattin', eating good food, and makin' memories. We are both so blessed by our families and thankful for time with them! 

    Well, that's all for now! Here are some pics of some recent happenings:
    2nd Year Anniversary in Tahoe!

    Dave's Bday hike in Malibu

    New Years with Erikson's & baby bump
    and Bouris' & baby bump
    Time with our favorite 3, the Thoennes'!

    Date Night!!
    Easter time with our bro!
    Half smiles and yellow flowers :)

    Hamilton's here for a visit