Day One: November 2020

Welcome to November! Our Golden Rain trees are aglow in our back yard with a deep amber that shouts, “Fall is here!” Photos from other parts of the country tell a similar story.

I’m guessing you are on pins and needles, waiting for election results. And while waiting, we are praying for peace to prevail through it all. Beyond the political arena, we continue to live in the shadow of the increasing pandemic with its darker and longer shadows.

In the midst of our challenges I’ve lost count of the number of times I have read or heard the question, “Will there be a new normal emerging out of all this?” I think there will be, and I expect it will manifest itself in all sorts of ways. I hope it does. In saying this, however, I prefer to describe my hope the way Steven Charleston does, as a time needing a deep change. [1] The word “normal” even when modified by the word “new” is not strong enough to describe what the future needs to be.

When I ask the question from a spiritual formation vantage point, one thing is clear: however we describe the future, it will not be accidental or automatic. It will emerge as acts of the will by people who refuse to go back to business as usual.

From a spiritual formation standpoint, the question is, “Will we be a new people, a changed people?” Richard Foster offers us the pathway for change in a formative paradigm: vision, intention, and means. [2] That is, if we have a vision (desire) for change, we must have the intention (will) to bring it to pass, using the means (disciplines) best suited to its fulfillment.

I think this means learning how to live expansively—that is, to live a life that is simultaneously deep and wide. I believe it is what Jesus called abundant living—what he said he came to give (John 10:10). It requires us to cease living within the confines of our many little stories, and become Big Story people. I will use the November “In-Sight” to say more about this. It posts next Saturday.

Before closing, I would remind you that I have been writing here on Oboedire since July 2010. Over the years I have written on a variety of topics. You can find these in the “Categories” list on the home page. Some of them have been extended explorations. I have identified them in the “Major Series” icon, also on the home page. One of the things I like about the site is that everything I write is archived rather than getting lost in a social media news feed.

Most of all, I hope you are doing well in the midst of these crazy and challenging times. I hope Oboedire contributes to that in some way. Despite all our dilemmas, I say with John Wesley, “The best of all is, God is with us!”

[1] I hope you follow his daily meditations on his Facebook page.

[2] This threefold paradigm is described in detail in the introduction to the ‘Life With God Bible,’ (HarperOne, 2005). It is a major resource for the Renovaré spiritual formation ministry.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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