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Welcome to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

Lent

Love Compilation

Love is of our essence. In the series’ final week, the Brothers explore God’s love for us and our love for others, which make us human.

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Questions:

Love 1: How might you love someone you may not necessarily like?
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Love 2: Are your expectations too rigid?
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Love 3: How are you a lover?
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Love 4: Do you greet the day with a growl or a yippee?
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Love 5: How does your love bubble up in response to others today?
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Love 6: What is the greatest experience of love you’ve ever had?
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Love 7: What is it about you that God delights in?
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Play Compilation

Play can revive us, free us, and return us to ourselves. From molding clay to rainstorms and chicken coops, the Brothers explore how some unexpected ways to play have opened up new life.

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Questions:

Play 1: Play for at least half an hour today.
How does it feel?
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Play 2: What is your favorite project?
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Play 3: In play time today risk getting lost.
What happened?
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Play 4: What helps you relax and be fully present in the moment?
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Play 5: What activities take you outside of yourself?
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Play 6: What has surprised and delighted you most recently?
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Play 7: Book yourself a play date.
What did you do?
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Work Compilation

For many of us, work is at the heart of our struggles with Time. The Brothers discuss a Christian view of work, offering wisdom for managing our busy modern lives.

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Questions:

Work 1: Is replenishing your being a priority in your life?
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Work 2: Consider your routines – where is God?
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Work 3: How does your work serve others?
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Work 4: What limits would give you life?
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Work 5: By what measuring stick do you gauge your worth and the worth of others?
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Work 6: Make a list of three intentions for your work life today.
What difference would these make?
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Work 7: How is the pace of your life?
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Pray: Compilation

You needn’t live in a monastery to make time to pray. The Brothers explore how crucial prayer is to their lives as they share unconventional ways and places they like to pray throughout the week.

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Questions:

Pray 1: Where do you find God in the ordinary?
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Pray 2: Where and how do you pray outside?
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Pray 3: What is the “arrow prayer” in your heart right now?
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Pray 4: Can you name out loud what you are most grateful for?
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Pray 5: How might being attuned to those around you shape your prayer today?
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Pray 6: What desires are shaping who you’re becoming right now?
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Pray 7: Listen: what is God presenting to you in prayer today?
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Stop: Compilation

To balance our relationship to Time, we first must simply Stop. Speaking from their own experiences, the Brothers suggest ways to carve out time for rest.

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Questions:

Stop 1: Sit in total stillness for five minutes today. How does it feel?
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Stop 2: Where is your invitation to stop during the day?
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Stop 3: What taskmasters do you need to be liberated from to reclaim your dignity?
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Stop 4: How do you picture a day spent “being” – as opposed to “doing”?
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Stop 5: Where are you drawn when you follow your heart?
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Stop 6: Are you content right now?
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Stop 7: Schedule a day of complete rest: What does it help you realize about your life and heart?
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Introduction: Time Compilation

The Brothers introduce the theme of Time in four short videos to spark reflection on time in our lives.

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Questions:

Time 1: Time – What is your relationship to time?
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Time 2: Priorities – How do you set priorities in your life?
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Time 3: Sabbath – What will you call Sabbath?
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Time 4: Purpose – What daily practice sparks joy in you?
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Reflection: Love

Love_RedIt’s time for love. (It’s always time for love.) Love is the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, and everything in between. Love is the message, the messenger, the meaning of it all, because God is love.

We Brothers take the name of “The Society of Saint John the Evangelist,” because we find in the Fourth Gospel the inspiration for our own life and mission. Above all, we are inspired by this Gospel’s testimony that God is Love, its conviction that Jesus is the revelation and revealer of God, its insistence that the Christian community is to be a community of love, bearing witness to what they have seen and heard and experienced. We have come to know what that original community held to be true: The beginning of all love is God.

And God’s love is very revealing.  Martin Buber writes, “You know always in your heart that you need God more than everything; but do you know too that God needs you?” Many of us might find this truth hard to accept. But it is true. God does not need us in order to be eternal, or infinite, or omniscient. But God created us and does need us, like an artist needs to create in order to be an artist. In creating, artists express their own nature: who they are, and what they are, and for what they give their life. And so with God.  God needs us because love is of God’s very essence. And love does not exist unless it is given away.

God is love, and love can only be realized and expressed in relationship: the give-and-take of love.  Julian of Norwich said there is in God “a desire, a longing, and a thirst from the beginning,” and this longing is for relationship.  With you.  God, if not loving you and if not loved by you, is somehow incomplete. Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” (John 15:9.) The God whom Jesus calls “Father” loves us – loves you – just as the Father loves Jesus.  You are loved that much! You have been created by God with love, for love, to love.  It’s of your essence.  Love makes you real.

I wonder how you hear this. Do you nod or shrug or shake your head? Some of us—many of us—might discover some resistance within our own souls at the promise of God’s love. We think, ‘God doesn’t love me, couldn’t love me, can only partly love me, cannot completely love me.’  But in that assumption we are thinking only about ourselves.  Think of God. You have probably known the best of times and worst of times, and sometimes the muddle in the middle.  God is well apprised of the goings on of human beings.  You do not have to change to know the love of God, but the love of God will change you, will make you real. St. Catherine of Siena wrote, “What is it you want to change?  Your hair, your face, your body?  Why?  For God is in love with all those things and he might weep when they are gone.”   God’s relationship with you is one-of-a-kind, beloved that you are.  There’s no one like you.  You make God’s day.  This is God’s love on God’s terms.  Nothing, nothing, nothing will ever separate you from the love of God. You need only say “yes” to that.

We read, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God . . . if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7) We are created to be in relationship: with God and with one another. Our attention and care to reordering our time has the goal of freeing us up to deepen and thrive in our relationships. Jesus shows us that to be human is to love: “Love one another” is his parting command to the community he drew around him. Beloved, let us love one another. Make time to love.

Reflection: Play

Play_RedThink back to your childhood and try to remember a moment of playful delight: a game you invented, a fort you constructed, a friend with whom you “goofed off”. When did you giggle until you could not stop? What made you want to dance or turn cartwheels (and when did you go ahead and do it)? What kind of play made you forget to eat lunch, because you were having too much fun to go inside?

Children play. All of them. Play is an innate, God-given inclination, which we can spot in the youngest of babes. From our earliest age, we play: we delight, savor, frolic, laugh, fool around, and romp for sheer silliness and bliss. Our imagination lets us create endless possibilities in the world around us. Toys are not required. An empty box often inspires more inviting possibilities than the toy it contained, for a simple box can become a train, a hovercraft or a castle. Blankets draped over furniture become forts, hideouts, and imaginary new worlds. True play does not depend on the world beyond us, but comes from the world within us.

Imagination and playtime and daydreaming are not just for kids. We hear now about how the most successful companies build play time and play spaces into their offices and schedules: ping pong tables in the break-room; corporate zip-lining retreats. The reason for this shift is as fundamental as it is necessary: Often the best ideas come to us as we play with opportunities, when we collaborate on innovations, and when we think “outside the box” to create something new. Play renews us.

Play can revive every part of our selves and our lives: from our work life to our relationships, including our relationship with God. You are a beloved child of God, safe and free. Creativity—which we all have—is a way to tap into our intuitive, inner voice, and hear God anew.

Here are some suggestions to springboard your play. (And if the word “play” doesn’t work for you, find a synonym that fits: delight, enjoy, savor, relish, adore, revel in, recreate, love… )

Draw on your memory. Remember what you used to enjoy, what you found fun, what you did alone with perfect contentment, or the play you shared with a sibling or friend.  How can you reclaim that fun, now?

 

Experiment. Give yourself permission to try something, with no judgment or evaluation. Keep perfection at bay and just “fool around” with something that intrigues you, and just for the fun of it.

Experience. Allow yourself simply to experience something delightful, freed from the need to make rational sense of it. Watch birds frolic in bathwater, dogs play with their toys, cats chase a ball of string, sunshine play on the rocks.  Read fiction or watch movies to experience other worlds, for sheer enjoyment. The Russian ballerina Ivana Pavlova once was asked what a particular dance meant. She answered, “If I could have said it, do you think I would have danced it?”

If you need permission to play, just remember that Jesus invites us to be children of God: “Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3) Play your way back to the childlikeness of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Reflection: Work

Work_RedIn Western society, the area in which we are most prone to develop a disordered relationship with time is in our work. Many of us are working too hard and too long. In his book, Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam notes, “For many today work has supplanted community life and this has had an adverse effect on happiness.” For many of us, the case is even more extreme: our overworking is killing us.

How should we, as Christians, think about our work? First, we can recognize that work is a gift from God, a gift which God shares with us and an essential part of the rhythm of human life. In the story of Creation in Genesis, the crowning achievement of God’s work was the creation of human beings to share in the responsibility of ordering and managing the world. It is natural for human beings to want to work, to enjoy working, and to experience the natural satisfaction of a job well done. Work contributes profoundly to our sense of dignity.

Herbert Marcuse, a 20th century philosopher, claims that our difficulties with work arise because we are dominated by the “Performance Principle.” We have an inner compulsion to perform, and what we feel about ourselves – our sense of identity and worth – is directly related to how well we perform. But as he notes, we can never really rest with this mindset, because there is always more to be done, and more to be achieved. When our sense of value as a human being is determined by our performance, it often doesn’t feel good enough.

This was true of Saint Paul. Though he had achieved much living under the Law, he still had the feeling of falling short. But in Christ, Paul encountered grace. In Christ he came to know that he was loved and accepted by God – as a result of grace, not because of his own performance. When he realized this – that nothing could separate him from the love of God in Christ – he experienced a profound sense of freedom. His work became an expression of love and gratitude as he strove to “do everything to the glory of God.”

Like Paul, we are invited to live not as people burdened by life’s demands, but as people of grace. But how do we do this? How can we keep alive the sense of work as a gracious gift, rather than as drudgery or toil?

First, we can exercise discipline. Work requires discipline, but stopping work also requires discipline! We can learn to set limits on how much we work, so that work doesn’t devour everything else (particularly our relationships). Modern technology poses a tremendous challenge to our ability to create and maintain healthy boundaries around work. When we are accessible by cell phone or email at all times of the day, when we carry our work with us wherever we go, we run the risk of allowing work to infiltrate our entire lives. We will need discipline to limit our easy access to work-related tasks, and to resist the lure of our cell phones and computer screens.

You might find it helpful to learn to put ‘frames’ around your work. When we work, we want to give our full attention to the task at hand. When we are at ease, we want to be fully present to the activities and relationships appropriate to times of leisure. It’s important that one task doesn’t just bleed into the next. When we complete a piece of work, we can stop, reflect on what we have accomplished, and give thanks before we move on to our next task. Learning to pause can help.