• What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
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Entries in spirituality (42)


Giving thanks for the life of Brother Roger - Taizé Community

Today I give thanks for the life and ministry of Brother Roger today. The establishment of the Taizé community is a continuing gift of renewal and missional blessing to the Church across the world.

It reminds me that simple courage and constant obedience can often be used by God to bring about transformation, healing and renewal.


In 1940, despite the spread of war in Europe, Roger Schütz crossed the border from Switzerland into France to pursue a community life characterized by simplicity and the fellowship described in the gospels. From early on in his life, Brother Roger knew that such a life together could be a sign of reconciliation for Christians from different denominations.
After settling in a French village called Taizé, Brother Roger was caught for hiding Jewish refugees and had to leave France after two years. When he returned after World War II had ended, he was accompanied by a few men who became the first brothers of the Taize community, which grew into an ecumenical community with brothers on all continents, bearing witness to what brother Roger came to talk about as a “parable of community.”
On August 16 2005, during evening prayer in the Church of reconciliation at Taizé, Brother Roger was stabbed to death by a mentally ill woman.
- Common prayer (16 August 2013) -



Solitude and community

In my devotional reading this morning I came across this remarkable quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer about solitude and the Christian community.  Of course Bonhoeffer's context was that of Finkenwalde (the roque seminary he set up for pastors who were not willing to serve the Nazi controlled Church).  

Our Master of Theology students at Stellenbosch University have been studying what it means to have a spirituality that is missional - i.e., to have a spirituality that is alive in God's presence and discerns and acts upon the will of God in the world.  This is a world engaging spirituality, rather than a world-negating spirituality.

This is part of my current journey.


Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when He called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called... 
"The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death himself, alone... I will not be with you then, nor you with me" (Luther)
Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called—the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ.  If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you.
"If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer they [the fellowship] suffer with me" (Luther)
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Life Together.



I want to change the world! Lord, begin by changing me.

My great friend @EtiennePiek69 gave a great gift about a year and half ago 'Common prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals'.  I have used it almost daily as my devotional guide.  The liturgies and reflections for each day are a remarkable blessing to me.

In my quiet time this morning I came across this quote which spoke to me directly.  Perhaps it may speak to you?

We have real difficulty here because everyone thinks of changing the world, but where, oh where, are those who think of changing themselves? People may genuinely want to be good, but seldom are they prepared to do what it takes to produce the inward life of goodness that can form the soul. Personal formation into the likeness of Christ is arduous and lifelong.

- Richard Foster (American Quaker and writer).

Have a truly blessed day today! May the Lord grant me courage and discipline to be changed, even as I desire to change the world!


The first principle and foundation

This weekend I had the joy of spending some time with the men in my Christian forum group. This is a group that offers both care for the journey, as well as support and accountability along the way. You can find out more about The Network of Christian Forums here.

To structure our retreat together I introduced my friends to St Ignatius' First Principle and Foundation. It is a powerful reminder to keep one's spiritual life centered on what matters most, and out of that to bless God and the world. Perhaps it could encourage you?

The Goal of our life is to live with God forever.

God, who loves us, gave us life.
Our own response of love allows God's life to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts from God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.

As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us to develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the center of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation.

We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.

For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.

Our only desire and our one choice should be this:

I want and I choose what better leads to God's deepening his life in me.


Henri Nouwen on Thomas Merton's approach to prayer

In my devotions this morning I was inspired by this quote on prayer:

It is impressive to see how prayer opens one's eyes to nature. Prayer makes men contemplative and attentive. In place of manipulating, the man who prays stands receptive before the world. He no longer grabs but caresses, he no longer bites, but kisses, he no longer examines but admires. To this man, as for Merton, nature can show itself completely renewed. Instead of an obstacle, it becomes a way; instead of an invulnerable shield, it becomes a veil which gives a preview of unknown horizons.

From 'Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic' by Henri J. M. Nouwen


The freedom that comes from spiritual discipline

One of the great blessings of traveling is that it changes my regular patterns of work. While I have been busy on this trip to Malaysia - meetings, speaking engagements, luncheons and dinners - I have also not had the constant barrage of telephone calls, office appointments and the regular expectations of daily life. This has allowed me an opportunity for silence, prayer and reflection. I feel that I have sorely needed this inner space for some time now. I do live a busy life between my various roles.

In my devotional time I like to read the scriptures, pray, have a time of silent centering prayer, and also read something challenging, encouraging, or instructive, from a Christian author. Here's what I read yesterday. It was very helpful on the relationship between freedom and spiritual discipline:

When we begin to ask what the conditions of inner renewal are, we receive essentially the same answers from nearly all of those whom we have most reason to respect. One major answer is the emphasis upon discipline. In the conduct of one's own life it is soon obvious, as many have learned the hard way, that empty freedom is a snare and a delusion. In following what comes naturally or easily, life simply ends in confusion, and in consequent disaster. Without the discipline of time, we spoil the next day the night before, and without the disciple of prayer, we are likely o end by having practically no experience of the divine-human encounter. However compassionate we may be with others, we dare not be soft or indulgent with ourselves. Excellence comes at a price, and one of the major prices is that of inner control.

We have not advanced very far in our spiritual lives if we have not encountered the basic paradox of freedom, to the effect that we are most free when we are bound. But not just any way of being bound will suffice; what matters is the character of the binding. The one who would like to be an athlete, but who is unwilling to discipline his body by regular exercise and by abstinence, is not free to excel on the field or the track. His failure to train rigorously and to live abstemiously denies him the freedom to go over the bar at the desired height, or to run with the desired speed and endurance. With one concerted voice the giants of the devotional life apply the same principle to the whole of life with the dictum: Discipline is the price of freedom.

- From The New Man of Our Time by Elton Trueblood.

What spiritual disciplines do you practice? Has your experience been that as you become more disciplined your capacity for freedom grows alongside the disciplines?


Love to pray

This is an inspiring quote on prayer:

Love to pray. Feel often during the day the need for prayer, and take trouble to pray. Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God's gift of himself. Ask and seek, and your heart will grow big enough to receive him and keep him as your own.

- Mother Teresa from A gift for God


God does something with me

I'm certain that it is a combination of factors, missing my family, the opportunity to be silent and reflect on the flight, and the anticipation of the week of wonderful meetings, speaking and teaching engagements and the opportunities for the Gospel of Christ to take shape... In fact there are probably a whole lot more factors such a memories, aspirations, sights, sounds and many things I am not aware of!

Here's the point... God does something within me on these trips. I grow closer to Him. I begin to slow down and experience His heart for this beautiful world, for all it's people, for the animals and plants, the landscapes. God helps me to feel love, compassion, joy and sadness.

In my doctoral research I came to discover that identity is formed through a complex set of interactions that take place within the individual and the community. It is a bit like the triune God - the identity of the individual persons comes to the fore in their relationships with others.

As you empty yourself (what is known in traditional theology as 'kenosis') you grow to become who God desires you to be, a bearer of the loving, serving, courageous image of Jesus Christ (this concept is known in Eastern and Patristics theology as 'Theosis' - growing in the likeness and mind of Christ). Paul writes about kenosis and Theosis in Phil 2.2-6, culminating around verse 11 if I am not mistaken.

So, as I sit alone in Singapore airport, enjoying a cup of coffee, God is doing something within me. I pray that it is good, that I may be less like me and more like Christ.

Look at the beautiful orchids in this picture. A real highlight each time I fly via Singapore. Indeed, the earth is the Lord's and everything in it (Psalm 24)!

Please pray with me!


When God speaks what do you do?

This week I have been at a very significant conference of influential global business leaders. It was a wonderfully inspiring time to listen to now many of these persons prevailed against significant odds to achieve what it they believed they had heard God calling them to do. Some took risks to start new enterprises and ventures, some gave up power, prestige and wealth to take up a life of service, others took a stand against an issue of corruption or abuse.

There was a fairly common narrative - God has a will for the world. God graciously invites us into His wonderful will and work in the world. However, it takes faith, courage, and obedience (and perseverance!) to faithfully achieve what God wants to do.

I am is servant - that is my calling. I am called to serve God. In doing so I have discovered that it most often means that I am called to serve God's people. This is blessed and rewarding work.

During this week I heard God speaking to me. It was very clear! Some may ask how I know that God was speaking to me - all I can say is that God spoke, I perceived it clearly and convincingly. I can only assume that this is similar to how someone like Wilberforce was encountered by God in order to give his life to fighting slavery. It takes courage to go against reason and seek to be obedient - I am trying to do that in my life.

So, I shall be spending time praying, thinking, reading, listening, engaging in community, watching the world, reading the scriptures and figuring out what it means to be obedient to God's gracious call to enter into God's loving, gracious, and just will for me and world.

I'd love to hear from you whether you have ever heard God speaking to you? If so, what did you do in response to that encounter?


Created in Joy! Created for Joy!

I am an avid reader.  I tend to devour everything that peaks my interest - just at the moment I am reading Walter Isaacson's biography on Steve Jobs.  It has been of the most engaging, and saddening, books I have read in a long time.

Steve Jobs seems to have been a person who had a few very 'rough edges'.  Whilst I can certainly see elements of enlightenment in his character and desire, there are some very aspects of his person (most frequently expressed in his fears and his behaviour) that show that in spite of enlightenment he was a rather tormented and unhappy person.

I suppose that in some senses success comes at a cost - in this case the cost is real closeness to other people.  While there is little doubt that many people admired (and still admire) Steve Jobs for his vision and drive, there is also little doubt that there are many who have been left in the wake of an unrelenting and even destructive personality.

In contrast to what I am reading in the Isaacson biography I came across this beautiful quote from Frederick Buechner, the American born writer and theologian:

God created us in joy and created us for joy, and in the long run not all the darkness there is in the world and in ourselves can separate us finally from that joy, because whatever else it means to say that God created us in his image, I think it means that even when we cannot believe in him, even when we feel most spiritually bankrupt and deserted by him, his mark is deep within us. We have God’s joy in our blood. Frederick Buechner.

Indeed, I can see aspects of 'driveness' in my own life.  Those who know me will testify to the fact that I am quite a driven person.  Once I have a particular goal in mind, or an aspiration toward which I am striving, it tends to occupy my mind and direct both my actions and my thoughts.  

For example, I had been working on my doctoral research for about two and a half years when one day a catastrophe occurred - in an attempt to keep up to date copies of my working file (the actual text of my dissertation) I accidentally copied an old version of my work over the latest versions.  Of the 4 completed chapters (out of 6) in my doctoral thesis I lost 3. Basically all I had left was my research proposal, which would later become the first chapter of my thesis.

As you can imagine I was devistated! After much anger, dissapointment, disbelief and more anger, I made a choice:  I said to myself that I would give this project one last effort.  I decided to wake up each morning and work from 4am to 6.30am every day of the week (7 days) until I could not do it anymore.  

I kept to that discipline and ended up completing my dissertation in just over a year.  I was consumed by the desire to complete it. 

However, I have been working very hard in recent years to be transformed from being driven to being called.  It is a subtle, but significant distinction.  Driven people do things for themselves.  Called persons respond to an invitation from another.  I am attempting to live far more as a person of calling, on who is dedicating his life to a vocation rather than a career.

This reminds me a great deal of this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer (whose biography 'Bonhoeffer, Pastor Martyr, Prophet, Spy', I read last month):

Vocation is responsibility and responsibility is a total response of the whole man to the whole of reality. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As I have taken this delicate and often painful journey of living in spite of my weaknesses and brokenness I have discovered a great deal of blessing and joy. I am beginning to become much more accepting of the truth that I was created in joy, and created by God for joy!


When God feels far away... A helpful insight.

In a couple of sessions with clients recently I have heard the concern that they feel far from God. It can be difficult when one is in that space.  Of course the ego is a part of that problem - we want 'control' over our spiritual experiences.  Another problem is hedonism - we want to 'enjoy' everything we experience.  Struggle can be a very helpful spiritual condition.  It is uncomfortable, yet helpful.

I found this quote from firstbreath90 very insightful to understand this spiritual phenomenon:

When God feels absent or non-existent, he does not come to the rescue like a helicopter parent. He leaves you in that pitch-black spiritual cave until every last bit of ego-driven “control” of your spiritual life is exposed for the sham that it is. He allows the “god” of our own imaginations to fade away so that he can begin the deeper process of forming us into spiritual begins who are content to trust rather than control.

Paradoxically, when God seems non-existent, it is then that he may actually be most at work. A Christian theology that learns to accept the dark night will be able to give thanks to God in any and all circumstances.

So, yeah, there is quite a bit in Ecclesiastes that intersects with the Gospel. Knowing Jesus doesn’t keep us from these experiences of alienation from God. They may actually bring us closer toward these experiences. That is all part of the Christian package—suffering conforms us to Christ’s image.

- Peter Enns, in an interview for his upcoming commentary on the book of Ecclesiastes.

How do you deal with 'feeling far from God'? Have you got any advice or insights to share? Please leave a comment below.



I need your help to design a Masters course in Spirituality

Ekklesia web logo.jpg

We are planning to launch a new Master of Theology course in Spirituality and Spiritual formation at Ekklesia in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Stellenbosch

I would love to make this an 'open source' project! Our aim is to serve the Church and society. Ekklesia has a particular focus on shaping Churches, their clergy and members, for effective mission and transformation in the world.

As a result we would like our program to cover both spirituality and mission in what it presents for the participants. The Master of Theology program consists of 6 modules. 3 of the modules are shared with the Master of Theology in Congregational Leadership course. These 3 modules are: Congregations, a Theological module (this year we focussed on the Trinity and 'Missio Dei', and a module that introduces Christian Spirituality.

How can you help?

  • Please suggest themes or topics that you think we should cover in the three remaining modules.

  • Please suggest any books, authors, or scholars that we should consider including (with a brief one line motivation)

  • If you're interested in being updated on how this course develops, or if you may be interested in applying to do the Master of Theology in Spirituality and Spiritual direction at Stellenbosch University, then please leave your details.

    Please feel free to leave your feedback, comments and ideas in the comments section below (see the link below this post), or send me an email via the contact section of my website.

    Thank you!