If your social and professional circles are similar to mine, you’ve heard the word Activism a lot lately. Many of us have found that deep desire to “get in there, and make a difference”! For some of you, the next step is so easy. You know the cause you will champion. You know the people group you’ll advocate for. You have counted the cost of your involvement, and you’ll “get in there”. For others, you know there’s a problem, you have the desire to use their influence to create change, but you’re missing something. You guessed it…Vision! To folks with clear Vision, God bless you and GET IN THERE! Use your voice. Use your influence. Use all your gifts, talents, and wisdom to lead your people! Take advantage of the times. We have a lot of work to do!
To folks who haven’t found your Vision yet, for yourself or for the groups you lead (I often find myself here too), God might be calling us out into a new season! My advice is to truly reconnect to God (however you do that) on a regular basis. My practice is deep breathing and prayer. Deep and slow breathing, even for 10-20 minutes a day, transforms your nervous system by reconnecting you to your body in a more aware and relaxed way. Prayer, while being a complex discipline, reconnects us to God our Maker. In prayer, God realigns us with God-self, the Source of Healing, Salvation, and Renewal (for ourselves and the world). God rewires us back to our truer, unique purposes, and gives us God-power to “get in there” in a way that truly sees God’s Mission to redeem all creation. We get Vision by pausing and reconnecting to ourselves and to God, from there…God will do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.
Reflecting on vision casting these past few weeks has been eye opening. To me, “vision” has always coincided with dreaming big. How can I challenge myself to do something huge or have some sort of grand impact? And while thinking about things bigger than you is a great thing, vision to me recently has been taking a step back and seeing how I can be true and caring to myself and those around me. If we have learned anything in the past few weeks, we’ve learned that we have a great need for self-care and community care.
So what does that look like? Self-care means that we need to be aware of ourselves physically, spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Are we taking time for ourselves to connect with God? Are we setting time aside when we get overwhelmed to prevent burnout? Are we reaching out to friends or loved ones when support is needed? No one can pour from an empty cup, so self-care directly pours into our community care.
Community care is how we relate to those around us, and in our context here, how we relate to those we are leading. How are the members of the teams doing in the same ways mentioned above? How are they growing? How are they using their talents and gifts to serve the part of Forefront not currently involved in a group or a team? How are we all affecting the community in New York outside of Forefront’s walls, especially those feeling vulnerable at the moment?
The best part of all this is that even though our actions seem relatively small, they can still have a big impact.
Words like “vision-casting” or “discernment” are very Christian-ese. But, in many ways what I think of as harmony or connection to God is doing the work of discerning and communicating vision and purpose to others, just spelled out differently. I have been practicing yoga for close to nine years, and I embrace the use of the verb “practice” to describe it. I continually practice, because I do not perfect. Over the nine years I have “backslid” and gone through periods of not attending classes or spending any time on my mat. My bones and joints have felt stiff and poses that were once easy to reach, I had to ease back into. But in calling it a practice, grace is automatically given. There is grace in my practice for times when I am stiff or have not spent the time I needed to. Connection with God works in the same way: there is grace automatically given for every season. We need to put in the work, practice, connection with God, in order to move forward, to meet new challenges, but the emphasis is on the journeying. Connection with God, I believe, begins with silence and openness, something that as an anxious Enneagram 1 I find difficult. Thinking of connection to God, discernment, and vision-casting, as a lifelong practice, rather than a single perfected event, allows grace and depth into our relationship.
For me, vision and dreams are alike concepts. Visions are dreams put into concrete terms. Dreams become ideas (small and big) that move from the "what if?” questions to lists of discrete goals and tasks.
Sometimes, when we have leadership seminars, visions begin to sound like formulas we’re creating for a program to work or ideas that become a reality by the sheer force of our will. But that’s not dreaming, and that’s not life-giving.
I have dreams all of the time-- in the shower, while I ride the subway, or even as I sleep. I’ll remember something and tweak it in my head. I’ll think through what to cook when hosting friends or how to encourage the volunteers who serve at my nonprofit. I’ll plan for a future family that I don’t have now. These are all dreams, visions of what could be in the future.
I’ve realized in the last few weeks how child-like wonder, hope, and imagination are the foundation for good dreams. I often laugh at the things that I think up, and I throw away at least 9 out of 10 ideas that come to mind. But that’s the fun part. I get exhilarated by the thought of something, and then, sometimes, I’m energized to actually put it into practice.
In this way, creating vision can be a sort of self-care as I allow myself the space to dream and laugh and play with thoughts of what could be.
I listened to Be Thou My Vision as a meditation (here’s the version, if you’re interested) before I sat down to write and this line stuck out:
“Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.”
If God is the heart of my own heart, if God is my vision, how do I experience Him?
I listen for Him.
God says, “Be still. And know that I am God.”
I practice centering prayer, daily. Father William Meninger and Fr. Thomas Keating have written a lot about this, and Mike McHargue’s book Finding God In The Waves has a great section on the neuroscience of prayer. This has helped me develop more than just an intercessory prayer habit (talking to God).
James Hillman writes: “Prayer has been described as an active silence in which one listens acutely for the still small voice, as if prayer were not asking and getting through to God, but becoming so composed that He might come through to me."
I changed the way I read my Bible. Seeking God’s Face has helped me with this: “The goal of lectio divina is to grow in companionship with God, to be a personal participant in the story of God, lovingly listening for God’s word, allowing the text to get into us and read our lives.” This season it’s been Ecclesiastes (Yes the book that starts "Everything is meaningless!”) that speaks loudest to me. It’s helped me discern what is just “a chasing after the wind” and what is a good/beautiful use of my limited, precious energies (Rob Bell talks a lot about this in How To Be Here.)
Little-by-little I learn to be a better listener. And the better I become at listening, the clearer it becomes when God is calling me to act. Big or small things, I follow my heart because I trust that He is the Heart of my own heart.
A list of books that have helped shape 2016 for me:
A Sacred Voice Is Calling by John Neafsey
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
How To Be Here by Rob Bell
Finding God In The Waves by Mike McHargue
“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
We think about “vision” in the wrong ways a lot of the time. We fall into the trap of imagining that we can make ourselves into something or someone we would like to be, but were not created to be. That is why we have been encouraging each of you to reflect on vision over the last few months. In order to find, or create a vision for the future, we first must find who we were created to be.
Vision is the foundation of future growth, but that growth springs out of the discovery of our truest self. Without a clear vision rooted in the true self, we aren’t able to move in any purposeful direction. Often, even if we are hard workers and highly motivated people, we can feel exasperated by the nagging intuition that what we are doing with our lives isn’t fulfilling our purpose. That is why vision is so motivating. If we know who we were created to be, as Pressfield says, we can cast a vision to become who we already are.
The development of vision requires work. It is not possible without personal reflection, honesty with one’s self, and a willingness to learn and evolve. Casting vision and seeing it through is one of the most challenging and rewarding processes in leadership, and it starts now.
Lean into discovering who God made you to be, and learn how to be who you already are.
Travis Eades, Community Pastor.
Forefront Is / #FCQ16
September 11 - October 9
Week of September 18 - Go to David Bazan FCQ event! (no study guide)
Week of October 9 - Go to Lisa Sharon Harper FCQ event! (no study guide)
October 16 - November 20
Week of October 16 - Yiśrāʾēl (Israel), The Very Good Gospel chapters 1-3
Week of October 23 - Hinneh (“Here I am,” or “to be Present”), The Very Good Gospel chapters 4, 5
Week of October 30 - Mitzvah (Commandment), The Very Good Gospel chapters 6, 7
Week of November 6 - Go to Brian McLaren FCQ event! (no study guide)
Week of November 13 - Barak (Blessing), The Very Good Gospel chapters 8-10
Week of November 20 - Mizraim (“Egypt” or “Narrow Place”), The Very Good Gospel chapters 11, 12
Advent - Peace on Earth
November 27 - December 18
You may know Breeze as the system we use to process gifts, but it is also our database of people. If you already have a login to Breeze, then you will see that you now have access to not only your own profile, but to the profiles of others in our database. Why does this matter? Each Manhattan volunteer and leader has a field in their profile with their area of volunteering and/or their area of leadership.
Can't remember who leads the coffee & bagels team? Check Breeze! Not sure whether to ask someone to join your team because they might be volunteering elsewhere? Check Breeze!
If you don't already have a Breeze account, you can create one at forefrontnyc.breezechms.com, or by clicking the sailboat icon at the bottom of any page on the Forefront website. Once you create an account, Marlee will update your permissions to see the people database.
If you have any questions about signing up for an account or using Breeze, please email Marlee.
Below is the activity/reflection that Eric led us through at Leadership Community on Thursday. Click here to download a copy.
Before we get into anything here, take a good, deep breath (or two). Relax. You’re alone, so you can be yourself. Get into the activity as much as you can and have some fun! Take a few more deep and slow breaths before you begin.
For this activity I am going to ask you to use your imagination as a way of connecting with your values. Given that this is about your life’s purpose, it warrants an investment of time and thought. So if you’re inclined to jump straight to the blank lines below and start filling them in, pause a few moments. Read the next few paragraphs and ensure that what you’re writing is important to you. No one will grade you, except God (not true), but this is one of those things where ‘the more you put in, the more you get out.’
At Your 80th Birthday Party!
Suppose that we have the ability to fast forward you through time, and… CONGRATULATIONS, you made it to your 80th Birthday Partaay! You look amazing, of course, so don’t worry about that. At this event, people who are important to you, and to whom you are important, have come together to celebrate you and your life. These are people who “see” you; they get you. Because this is fantasy, these important people can be anyone from your life—alive or dead—they all made it safely to the party. Take a moment to imagine the banquet hall, the decorations, the smell of the food, the music, etc. And, then take a moment to visualize the faces of each important person—one by one. Again, pour yourself into the imagery.
Then imagine hearing the high-pitched ‘ding’ as someone hits their wine glass to get the attention of the room. The time has come for these important people to make speeches about you! They will spend their time talking about the kind of person they experienced you to be.
For this activity, I would like you to write the basic speeches for three important people as if you had actually become the person you would most like to be. So, take a brief moment, and let yourself imagine this person speaking from their heart about who you have been to them. Each speech should also reflect what each person saw as very important to you, and the impact you had on their life. Don’t limit yourself to what your mind currently tells you is achievable. Remember that you don’t need to show this to anyone – and that you’re not being graded. For now, let your imagination have free reign.
Who is the first person to speak? Write down their name and their relationship to you.
What do they say? Write this in below, or if you need more space use a separate sheet.
Now repeat this for subsequent speakers.
What do they say? Write this in below, or if you need more space use a separate sheet.
What do they say? Write this in below, or if you need more space use a separate sheet.
Take some time to come back to the present — take a deep breath (time travel can be rough) — and take a second to look over the Values on the following page. Listed there are 38 Values that people find really important to their deepest Self. Read through the list, review your experience in the Party activity, and identify your TOP 3 Values. That’s right, you can only have 3.
Please circle and rank order them.
Clarify Your Values
Below are some common values. (They are not ‘the right ones’; merely common ones.)
1. Acceptance/self-acceptance: to be accepting of myself, others, life, etc.
2. Adventure: to be adventurous; to actively explore novel or stimulating experiences
3. Assertiveness: to respectfully stand up for my rights and request what I want
4. Authenticity: to be authentic, genuine, and real; to be true to myself
5. Caring/self-care: to be caring toward myself, others, the environment, etc.
6. Compassion/self-compassion: to act kindly toward myself and others in pain
7. Connection: to engage fully in whatever I’m doing and be fully present with others
8. Contribution and generosity: to contribute, give, help, assist, or share
9. Cooperation: to be cooperative and collaborative with others
10. Courage: to be courageous or brave; to persist in the face of fear, threat, or difficulty
11. Creativity: to be creative or innovative
12. Curiosity: to be curious, open-minded, and interested; to explore and discover
13. Encouragement: to encourage and reward behavior that I value in myself or others
14. Excitement: to seek, create, and engage in activities that are exciting or stimulating
15. Fairness and justice: to be fair and just to myself or others
16. Fitness: to maintain or improve or look after my physical and mental health
17. Flexibility: to adjust and adapt readily to changing circumstances
18. Freedom and independence: to choose how I live and help others do likewise
19. Friendliness: to be friendly, companionable, or agreeable toward others
20. Forgiveness/self-forgiveness: to be forgiving toward myself or others
21. Fun and humor: to be fun loving; to seek, create, and engage in fun-filled activities
22. Gratitude: to be grateful for and appreciative of myself, others, and life
23. Honesty: to be honest, truthful, and sincere with myself and others
24. Industry: to be industrious, hardworking, and dedicated
25. Intimacy: to open up, reveal, and share myself, emotionally or physically
26. Kindness: to be kind, considerate, nurturing, or caring toward myself or others
27. Love: to act lovingly or affectionately toward myself or others
28. Mindfulness: to be open to, engaged in and curious about the present moment
29. Order: to be orderly and organized
30. Persistence and commitment: to continue resolutely, despite problems or difficulties.
31. Respect/self-respect: to treat myself and others with care and consideration
32. Responsibility: to be responsible and accountable for my actions
33. Safety and protection: to secure, protect, or ensure my own safety or that of others
34. Sensuality and pleasure: to create or enjoy pleasurable and sensual experiences
35. Sexuality: to explore or express my sexuality
36. Skillfulness: to continually practice and improve my skills and apply myself fully
37. Supportiveness: to be supportive, helpful and available to myself or others
38. Trust: to be trustworthy; to be loyal, faithful, sincere, and reliable
We have great fall sermon series planned!
Visit forefrontnyc.com/series-mh for messages, video and audio, study guides, and music from Sundays.
Forefront Is (Sunday, September 11 - Sunday, October 9)
Forefront Is will explore what progressive Christianity means to us. We'll look at topics like
What does it mean to be interdenominational?
What is the difference between tradition and traditionalism?
What does it mean to read the Scriptures like Jesus?
What is the nature of humans relationship to God?
What is salvation for?
Throughout the series we will collect questions from our community, and on the last week of the series, Ryan and Travis will do a Q and A to answer them. If you are interested in the inspiration for this series, you can listen to these messages from Gracepointe Church in Tennessee.
Six Words (Sunday, October 16 - Sunday, November 20)
Each week we will take a look at a different Hebrew word and its meaning in context as we find it in scriptures. The words are Yiśrāʾēl (Israel), Hineni(“Here I am,” or “to be Present”), Mitzvah (Commandment), and Barak (Blessing). Lisa Sharon Harper will kick off this series at her FCQ event discussing Shalom. The inspiration for this series came from a Robcast (Rob Bell's podcast) with Rabbi Joel. You can listen to it here.
Advent: Peace on Earth (Sunday, November 27 - Sunday, December 18)
How do we prepare for the Prince of Peace’s arrival? In Peace on Earth we'll look at ourselves and our own inner peace, bringing peace in the showing of empathy toward others, taking action against that which does not bring peace, and highlighting the peaceful things that are already going on in our city.
Christmas Eve Service, Saturday, December 24, in Brooklyn
NO SUNDAY SERVICES DECEMBER 25 OR JANUARY 1
We're so excited for another year of midweek events with great speakers and more at this year's Faith, Culture, Questions events!
Find all of the info on the events at forefrontnyc.com/fcq.
Find media assets (photos, memes to share), press releases, and an email to share at forefrontnyc.com/fcqmedia.
Use hashtag #FCQ16 when posting on social media.
Here's a quick rundown of the events:
David Bazan, Thursday, September 22 at 8pm, forefrontnyc.com/fcqdavid
Lisa Sharon Harper, Thursday, October 13 at 7pm, forefrontnyc.com/fcqlisa
Brian McLaren, Sunday, November 6, 10 and 11:30am, forefrontnyc.com/fcqbrian