Transformed Lives: From Fear to Love

Henri Nouwen — priest, author, and professor — wrote dozens of books on the spiritual life. Even after his death in 1996, his words in books like Spiritual Formation continue to shape and influence people who desire a deeper life with Christ.

Nouwen describes spiritual formation not so much in a direct linear path (i.e., you must accomplish step one before moving onto step two, and “mature” Christians are the ones who have mastered all the previous steps) but as a series of Spirit-led movements, often pushing back and forth at different points in our lives.


This week, as we explore the movement from fear to love, here are a set of reflections questions for you to consider. You might think about one each day, or several at a time — feel free to choose your pace and direction:

Reflect and Journal 

General Questions:

  1. What do you hoard or cling to out of the fear of scarcity? 
  2. Of what or of whom are you most afraid? 
  3. When have you felt most safe and unafraid? What were the circumstances? 
  4. What does the following verse mean to you, “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)?

Daily Questions:

  1. What causes you fear and anxiety today? 
  2. Did you make decisions today based on far? Are you feeling trapped in a prison of fear? 
  3. If so, how can you move toward house of God’s love? What inward thoughts and outward practices will redirect your life away from fear and toward love? Generosity, hospitality, silence, imaginative prayer, exercising, etc.?
  4. How has God shown love and care for you today? 
  5. “The challenge is to let go of fear and claim the deeper truth of who I am” 

Visio Divina: Living in the House of Love 

In Spiritual Formation, Nouwen offers different exercises for spiritual formation. One of these is called Visio Divina. We encourage you to practice this discipline during this week as an exploration of how God might be speaking to you.

Clear an extended time for visual prayer — at least ten minutes. Look long and hard a Rublev’s icon of the Holy Trinity. 

Nouwen writes in Behold the Beauty of the Lord, “As we place ourselves in front of the icon in prayer, we come to experience a gentle invitation to participate in the intimate conversation that is taking place among the three divine angels and to join them around the table. The movement from the Father toward the Son and the movement of both Son and Spirit toward Father become a movement in which the one who prays is lifted up and held secure.” 

Never have I seen what it means to dwell in the house of love more beautifully depicted than in the icon of the Holy Trinity painted by Andrei Rublev in 1410 in memory of the great Russian saint Sergius (1313-92). This icon has been a helpful visual window into the house of love for me. The story behind it opens it up even more. 

Long ago in Russia, there were many attacks made on a small town, and in a monastery the monks got very nervous and could no longer concentrate on their prayers because of all the violent conflicts throughout the town. The abbot called his icon painter, Rublev, to paint an icon to help the monks remain prayerful in the midst of restlessness, trouble, and anxiety. Rublev painted an icon based on the visit of the three angels to Abraham in Genesis, seated around a table of hospitality. 

In the icon, the figure in the center points with two fingers to the chalice and inclines toward the figure on the left, who offers a blessing. A third figure to the right points to a rectangular opening on the front of the table through which the viewer is invited to enter and participate in the spiritual actions. 

Together, the three figures form a mysterious circle of movement in perfect proportion. So when the monks prayed with the icon and focused on that circle of hospitality, love, and intimacy, they realized that they did not have to be afraid. When they allowed themselves to be part of the community formed by the three figures and let themselves be drawn into that circle of safety and love, they were able to pray and not lose heart. 

For me, praying with this icon, releasing my fears as I focus on that little doorway in the icon that leads to where God dwells in intimacy, hospitality, and welcome, has increasingly become for me a way to enter more deeply into the mystery of divine life while remaining fully engaged in the struggles of our hate- and fear-filled world. 

Prayerfully focus on the truth of these Scriptures: 

  • The Lord is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble — Psalm 46:1 
  • In you, O Lord, I trust. I let go of my fears — Psalm 31:14 
  • For you are our God, and we are the people of your pasture — Psalm 95:7 
  • For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. — Romans 8:38-39 
  • Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
    And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever — Psalm 23:6

At the end of your prayer time, read the following Psalm out loud: 

There is one thing I ask of the Lord;
for this I long:
To live in the house of the Lord 
all the days of my life … 
For there God keeps me safe in God’s tent.
In the day of evil God hides me. 
In the shelter of God’s tent on a rock
God sets me safe … 
And now my head shall be raised 
Above my foes who surround me. 
And I shall offer within God’s tent 
a sacrifice of joy. 
— Psalm 27:4-6


Sunday School at Home: The week of 8 November 2020

As we continue to navigate pandemic and online gatherings together, we want to help our younger NextGen students feel like they’re “together” by sharing the same Bible story and craft each week. Parents, please remember to have your kids bring their Growing in God’s Love story Bible to our worship gatherings via Zoom!

From week to week, even if we don’t read the story out loud, you can read it with them during the week (or, if they’re of reading age, have them read it to you!). 

For this Sunday, 8 November 2020, our story is “What is God’s Name?” from page 170 and the craft is “His Name Shall Be” — which is dated in its own baggie in your November care package.

Click on the images below to view/download the parent letter we sent with the care packages:

 

12 Months of Blessing: Pajama Drive for Cal-Safe Escondido

For the month of October, we’re partnering with Cal-Safe Escondido to do a kids’ pajama drive for 17 families in time for Thanksgiving. Please read the letter from Ann Leong below for more information:


Dear Brothers and Sisters of Anchor City Church,

I am so excited and thankful for the opportunity to serve The California School Age Families Education Program (Cal-SAFE) this month as a part of Anchor City’s 12 Months of Blessings.

This program, known to most of us, as the “Teen Parent Program” in Escondido has been hit hard by Covid. They have been closed since March and have not been able to re-open. At a special board meeting last night, it was determined that their district will stay in the Red tier until next semester. Discouraged but not giving up hope, the staff at Cal-Safe have tirelessly and continuously been doing home visits, making cares calls and dropping off resources at their residence for the 17 teen moms in their program. We want to bless these 17 beautiful families by hosting a Pajama Drive this month, to be delivered to their homes for Thanksgiving.

Edit: Signups are full — thanks for your generous support! You can still send in gift cards as detailed below. Won’t you join us in providing jammies for the babies and toddlers at Cal-Safe? Take a look at the list and pick a family you would like to bless. If you need a reminder of who you signed up for, you can also check the list. We are asking for brand-new jammies and a book to be gift-wrapped or gift bagged and labeled (for example, BOY 2T)! We can make arrangements to have them picked up (our sister Yang was gracious enough to volunteer for that) or you can drop them off. If you are mailing them, would you send them to Ann’s house?

[Note: Please email info@anchorcity.org for Ann’s address.]

Also! If you want to participate but are not comfortable going out, please feel free to send along a gift card and we will shop for you! There are so many ways to make it work~I really hope you get a chance to be a part of this wonderful giving.

We need them by October 30th! If you have any questions you can call or e-mail me directly.

Thank you in advance~God bless you, your family, your work, and your community!

Blessings,
Ann Kim Leong


12 Months of Blessing: UrbanLife and Wildfire Relief

For the month of September, we’re partnering with two ministries to address urgent local and regional needs.


UrbanLife “exists to see transformed people transform our neighborhoods through Christian community development initiatives and vibrant missional communities that love God, neighbor, and ‘hood.” UL’s ministries are holistic and impactful, especially in raising up and developing youth leadership.

Their Farms provide job and leadership opportunities for young people in City Heights, as well as providing fresh food for their community and beyond (we’ve been able to volunteer a couple of times in the past!) — and this month, we are blessed to partner with UrbanLife as their outdoor farm area becomes a socially-distanced outdoor educational space. As you know, most students are faced with the challenges of online learning. UL is creatively coming alongside students in City Heights to help them thrive during these challenging times.

Anchor City will be supporting this initiative financially — if you’d like to give additional support, please click here or use our Tithely app and choose “12 Months of Blessing” from the dropdown menu. Our giving will help cover some of the technological costs of providing internet access to a group of students and leaders in an outdoor space.


As record-breaking fires continue to rage across California (and other states), Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has responded quickly to bring aid: “With many wildfires blazing, PDA is in communication with all affected presbyteries. National Response Team members are virtually deployed to assist the presbyteries as they assess the situations in their communities and determine how PDA can best assist. We have disbursed several grants to address immediate needs such as feeding programs and emergency housing for displaced residents.”

If you’d like to offer financial support directly, please click here to give through PDA’s website.


Summer Bible Study • Final Ruth Study: Participants Guide


In what ways have you seen God’s hesed in your life this week?


Discussion Questions

  • “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer” might be one of the most significant lines in the entire book. Why? How do you see the promises to Naomi applied to your life today?
  • As we read the book of Ruth one last time, what new questions arise? What’s something new that stands out to you? To whom do you most relate this week?
  • After having spent the last five weeks studying the book of Ruth, if someone were to ask you what the book of Ruth was about, what would you say?
  • Bringing Ruth into the modern era: If the book of Ruth were to take place today, what would it look like? Where would it happen? What type of person would be Ruth? Naomi? Boaz?

Ruth & the Community

  • The book of Ruth can be said to be about how God works and show God’s hesed through people and in community. What were the issues that showed up that needed attention in the book of Ruth?
  • How did the others or the community show up in these instances?
  • How does community show up for each other today?
  • Who are the Ruth’s in our community today? Who are the people who are in need of you to show hesed to them?
  • The questions above might be asked similarly in this kind of way: How does your story contribute to the story of God’s redemptive work in the world? How do you want it to?