#33-Practicing the Presence of Christ ft. Selene Lau

 In

God in the Everyday

 

“Invite me in.”

Selene Lau talks about how as a mother, she found herself forgetting to invite God into every little thing.

He was there, but was he really, THERE?

Through a season of deep spiritual growth, Selene learned how to slow down, listen, and pay attention to God and what he is saying. Praying as she goes. By practicing the little things on repeat, it opens our hearts to hear more from God, and invites him to work on the bigger things in our lives. When God points out the sins and areas that need work in our lives, we will be ready and prepared to work on them.

 

“In the incremental moments of opening ourselves up and allowing God to point out the sins in our life, point out the ways that we have a hard time receiving his grace, slowly we become aware of his love in a greater way, and there’s transformation over time. There’s a book called “The Liturgy of the Ordinary” by Tish Warren Harrison, and she just talks about how God is in the everyday. And I’m actually learning as a mom to invite God into the very mundane tasks. And actually that’s been very life giving for me during this pandemic and mostly because I’m learning to just pray as I go.” – Selene Lau

 

Topics Covered Include

  • Invite God into everything
  • Seasons of deep growth
  • Spiritual formation
  • Slow down and be with God
  • Practicing new ways to keep God in your everyday life
  • Listen and pay attention

 

Show Notes

 

 

BCMB Pastor to Pastor
BCMB Pastor to Pastor
#33-Practicing the Presence of Christ ft. Selene Lau
/

 

Transcription

BCMB 033 - Practicing the Presence of Christ.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

BCMB 033 - Practicing the Presence of Christ.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Selene Lau:
In the incremental moments of opening ourselves up and allowing God to point out the sins in our life, point out the ways that we have a hard time receiving his grace, slowly we become aware of his love in a greater way, and there's transformation over time. There's a book called "The Liturgy of the Ordinary" by Tish Warren Harrison, and she just talks about how God is in the everyday. And I'm actually learning as a mom to invite God into the very mundane tasks. And actually that's been very life giving for me during this pandemic and mostly because I'm learning to just pray as I go.

Welcome to the BCMB podcast, Pastor to Pastor. This is a podcast by the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. We want to help equip and encourage pastors, churches and anyone else who wants to listen in and be more effective in their ministry. This is Episode 33, "Practicing the Presence of Christ" with Selene Lau.

Rob Thiessen:
Hey, everybody, welcome. My name is Rob Thiessen, this is the BCMB pastor to Pastor podcast. It's great to have you with us for don't even know which which number this is, but it's still it's still our first year of this podcast. And it's been a great year, although it's been a year of challenges and difficulties. And and one of the things we've been experiencing is a challenge of just maintaining our own spiritual sense of well-being with all the changes, like someone said, and I think it was our our guest today who said last time, you know, people are facing decision fatigue and everybody's pivoting and making adjustments to announcements from from the government regarding covid restrictions. And in the middle of that, how is our walk with the Lord? So I'm super excited to welcome our guests today, Selene Lau. And she is in Montreal. And I'm going to ask you to introduce yourself a little bit, Selene. And as you do, tell us a little bit about the faith community that shaped you in in your in your life.

Selene Lau:
Sure, it's great to join you on this podcast, so I'm Selene and I'm married to Jeremy and we work with "Power to Change - Students", the campus ministry in Montreal. I umm, I actually grew up in a Christian home. I went to a Chinese Alliance church in Calgary growing up and was very involved. And so I think I was more involved, mostly because my parents were, it was a very active youth group and children's ministry. But it was really in university, that I would say that my faith was, it was transformed and it was mostly because of "Power to Change". Being on campus at the time was called "Campus Crusade for Christ" way back. And and that kind of spun me off into ministry. And so I I actually moved to Quebec in 2002. And so that's where I started doing ministry in French. And we've been we I was there for eight in Sherbrooke, Quebec, for eight years. And then after that, my husband I moved to B.C. for him to pursue Seminary at ACTS, and we were in B.C. for seven years. And the last three years we've been back in Montreal. And so we've continued, so continued in ministry. But our personal trajectory probably will go more into detail as we talk. But that's kind of where we are. Yeah, that's what the journey has been for me personally during the last 20 years.

Rob Thiessen:
In your life, Selene, you tell us a little bit about, you know, the places where you you really felt like milestones in your life or people or milestones that really shaped you or defined you in terms of following Christ and and coming to understand who who God is in your life.

Selene Lau:
Yeah, I think I've been very blessed in my life with very specific people, I would say that probably university, the first mentor I had was a lady named Karen and she was a mom of four kids. And she, I was a student and she actually just invited me to babysit all the time. But what I saw in her life was just how she integrated faith and God into moments with their kids and moments with, yeah, with her husband. And it was really through her that I experienced grace for the first time. So I would say that she had a very, very strong influence on me, mostly in extending unconditional love and grace. And so I, faith for me was probably very intellectual up to that point. And she demonstrated it. And so then for two years I would meet with her regularly. She really helped me grow in knowing the word. And through that I joined ministry. And when I was when I joined "Power to Change" and moved to Quebec, I think one of the other people was another mom, strangely enough. And she, maybe I wonder if they have influence, mostly because I see it in their daily life. It's not that I didn't learn from teachers who taught or had very good theology, but she also was a huge influence, mostly because she encouraged me in ministry. She and her husband had been in ministry for a long time. Her name's Lisa and they had gone through a lot of challenges and I actually learned a lot through the way they navigated personal, painful things and stories. And yeah, and so that was really helpful for me. And what, in the midst of that, in 2007, I had a pretty massive burnout and I left Quebec in 2009 and moved to B.C.

Selene Lau:
and I think B.C. was a very rich time for me, actually. So I went to NOCCA, North Langley Community Church and it was a great place for me, actually. So different from mentors, I just had deep friendships. And I think that that was very formative for me of just being a regular mom with kids. And, but it was also a time when, because of my burnout, it was a lot of disillusionment and just frustration. And I think that out of that, the probably the most defining, it was a very defining time of trying to figure out faith in a new way and seeing God. I still believed in him. But it was I really struggled and probably by the last couple of years I was in B.C. was when my husband actually, because he went to ACTS, started reading different things, and I saw a switch in him that there was new life and a different paradigm to faith. And he encouraged me to read different books. And I I resisted mostly because I was a mom and I thought, I can't read, I don't have time to read. I have three little kids. But I started reading and after I started getting hungry for seeing God, more intimate leasing, real change. And these books really helped me discover the reality of that. And so that spun me on as we moved to, moved back to Montreal, I the probably the most recent transformative experience has been me being part of the "Renovare Institute", where we talk about spiritual formation. And so I feel like it's another season of deep growth. And so those are some of the marks throughout my journey that have really formed me.

Rob Thiessen:
Right. That's that's awesome. Beautiful to hear. What, do you remember some of the titles of those books that you started reading that stirred a hunger in you?

Selene Lau:
Yeah, there's two books. One was "Soul Keeping" by John Ortberg, and a second one was "A Sacred Year" by Mike Yankoski. And they were, and I think they just put words to a deep longing in my heart that I, I couldn't put into words myself. Where it was saying, how does Jesus meet me in my actual struggles and how do I see real change and how do I keep growing? Because I been doing the same things. I've been reading my Bible, I had quiet time and I've been consistent. I still went to church and I prayed, but I felt stuck. And for the first time I, I said it felt like they put words to my struggle. But then they also presented hope in in real change, in real intimacy with God that I was really longing for.

Rob Thiessen:
Oh, that's that's great. Really love how you express that, Selene. And and I think that's really relevant to a couple of things that, you know, and just when you're sharing. One, that you had a regular habit, sort of Christian habits: attend church, worship, and those are super important. You also spent time in the word. Those are like bedrock things in your life. But, you know, it sounds like, you know, learning you begin to learn and grow and to say, you know, maybe there's more to to what I'm doing to these habits that I have that are good habits. Maybe there's more for me to discover here what's really at the heart of what I'm doing.

Selene Lau:
Yeah, I I think so, I think not that, and they still are bedrock, I would say that there's still the word and truth is still crucial in the change. And I still think prayer, as, I mean, there's so many ways to pray, and prayer, is still foundational in the way to connect with Christ. But I think what I realize there's probably two shifts that happened. One was that I had grown up with this idea that I just needed to try more and do better. So change my behavior or just check the boxes off. So, for example, this is what Jesus did. Do you, are you doing that? And, and it's tiring. After a while, to not see any change. And then the second one was that, when I was with Renovare Institute, they began to talk about how do we change in such a way that it's not just imitating Jesus, but in a way of doing new things, and things probably other people knew, but they were new to me, that help me actually change my inner life so that my inner life can be like Jesus. And that was a whole different way of seeing change.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's good. I love the way you're expressing that so many things. We were just chatting a little bit before about the author, James K. Smith, who's written, "You Are What You Love". And, also Dallas Willard talks a lot about this, too, with his you know, his vision, his VIM thing. What does that vision, intention, and means? Yeah. Yeah. And so he takes a look, Willard talks a lot about how, you know, as like as a child, you're under the law, you're you're following rules and you and so like, like what would Jesus do, kind of a thing. You know, it's like, well, you know, I'm now I'm going to apply effort to, to obey what's been commanded, which is a biblical injunction. Well you know, if we love Jesus, we'll obey his commands. But Jesus invites us to be with him. And, and he says, you know, I've called you friends now and and he, know it's all, he wants to be with us. And that's a, that's a different, that's a mature obedience then, because it's internalized, like you said. And, and I think, yeah, Dallas Willard often says, you know, you can't you know, you can't just like do to yourself into that then for that relationship to evolve, it takes other practices, other ways of being that will cultivate that kind of depth of relationship. So which this is, this is jumping into, you know, my next questions, which I wanted to put to you. What are we talking about when we talk about spiritual formation and discipline? So, you know, you've you've been studying this now. How do you respond to that question? Somebody says, "Well, I don't know, what are you talking about when you talk about spiritual formation and disciplines? Are you talking about just like having your daily devotions or what is this?"

Selene Lau:
That's a, I, that's a good question. I feel like especially because right now those two words are being thrown around way more and more seminaries, having studies in them. I would say that at the heart of spiritual formation is the process of becoming like Jesus. And so I think we all heard the Great Commission and about becoming his disciples. We, and we see God, Jesus throughout the New Testament, calling his disciples to be like him, learning from him. And I think what's happened in the past or in some context is that, like I said before, it's just become imitating. It's an imitation. Just copy his actions and it will change. But I think throughout the New Testament, it continues by saying be transformed to be in his image, be conformed and then be formed. So there's actually a process that needs to take place to become like Jesus. And I think Dallas Willard has, he in his book, there is a book he wrote called "Renovation of the Heart". I'm not sure if you're aware of that. But he has a quote that says "Spiritual formation is the spirit driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself." And so it's, it's saying we want, be actually become like Jesus, not just do what he does, but how do we become like him. And so that's where spiritual disciplines come in. It's like the three, the VIM that you said, it's the means. And so spiritual disciplines, I think are just, a lot of people call them practices.

Selene Lau:
They're practices we do to open our hearts up, to let, to be open to what God's love can do in our inner hearts, to to pay attention to the obstacles that keep us from becoming like him, and to exercise to become, it's like exercise in holiness. So I'm a pianist, the one, the best illustration is I'm a pianist. And I, for those, or it could be an athlete, but I'm a pianist. And so for years it was just scales, which is like practice scales and triads and arpeggios. And I would never perform those in front of people, like performing that would be painful for someone just to hear the practice. But I practiced that so that when it's time to perform or when there's times where I'm actually playing, my fingers are strong. And, and I think practices are the same thing is that in the day to day, so specific ways to pray, the disciplines of fasting or silence and solitude, they're not really glamorous in and of themselves, but in the incremental moments of opening ourselves up and allowing God to point out the work that the sins in our life, point out the ways that we have a hard time receiving his grace, slowly we become aware of his love in a greater way. And there's transformation over time. But the disciplines are just practices. They are not the goal in themselves. The goal is to know God more and to be with him. And so, yeah.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, that's good. That's good. If they become the focus, which they easily do. I mean, I think that's one of the pitfalls of what we're talking about. If we, if we come to that later is that, you know, we we get into these things and like like whatever you're doing as a spiritual discipline becomes somehow the measuring stick that you sort of. Well, now, am I pleasing God? I'm doing these things to please God. No, that's not right. And, and then am I doing these things to make other people feel that I'm special? You know, obviously not, right? And, and then maybe even worse, you know, if I'm a leader, am I putting these forward is some kind of duty or obligation for people so that they are burdened down? You know, as more rules that would also be totally missing the point.

Selene Lau:
Yeah, it's very true that you know, we get a terrible leader, but yeah, there's pitfalls of just making them a means, like just an end in themselves.

Rob Thiessen:
Um, you know, Selene, when you were also sharing your story, you talked about how much, or how like you talked about two women who are mothers who who, you know, in their mothering, in their busy lives, were particularly influential on you and your spiritual journey. And now you're a mom and you've got like, like we're talked about before, you dropped your children off at school and or preschool or wherever. They're out there in Montreal and have a couple of hours free now this afternoon to do this podcast with me. But talk to us about your current life and ministry, how you practice spiritual disciplines. And and I think it's particularly relevant for for this podcast. But I'm pretty much everyone, most people listening to this podcast, they have a busy life. You know, a lot of listeners are pastors of our churches, other people, you know, are whatever in whatever occupation they have. So any one of us could look at our lives and go, I really don't have a lot of margin. And, and so, you know, that's one of the excuses we tell ourselves why we can't pursue this, because we just don't have the time. How do you, as a mom, you know, practice spiritual disciplines, yeah, for you and your life?

Selene Lau:
Umm, that's a, that's an interesting question, mostly because I think, maybe the first part I would say is that there's just a lot of grace in it. I would say that by no means have I attained any kind of perfection in any way. But I am learning I would say that probably the one that has become very, just like, just like an anchor in my life is just silence and solitude and, and so I have my youngest is five and to this day he is an early riser. And when he was a baby, I used to just dread, he'd be up at four thirty and be ready for the day. He doesn't wake up that early anymore. But the reason I'm sharing that is that after a while he started to sleep in. But I still woke up quite early and I used to hate that. But actually I've noticed that I need time to be quiet and to. Just noticed God's presence in the morning before my kids wake up and so they can still get up about six thirty, but I wake up around five, five thirty every day and I just, so it's devotions like I did before, but a lot of it for me is just quiet and just sitting there and noticing God's presence. And so and then I pray and we and probably a lot of things that other people do. But that is one that I do it, that has been an anchor for me is in the morning, early mornings, and it doesn't have to be that time.

Selene Lau:
The other thing I would say is I'm learning there's a I, I can write the list of resources. There's a book called "The Liturgy of the Ordinary" by Tish Warren Harrison, and she just talks about how God is in the everyday. And I'm actually learning as a mom to invite God into the very mundane tasks. And actually that's been very life giving for me during this pandemic. Mostly because I'm learning to just pray as I go and notice God in, when I'm cleaning the toilet, or folding laundry, or just pray in the midst of it that Jesus is with me. So that's something I would say any mom, any pastor can do. So it's the silence, the solitude is when I, that it takes intentions. So it means taking time. Another one that takes another, that requires intentionality is fasting. I do that regularly. That's the one I feel like I still am trying to figure out. I would have no expert advice, but I would say that I see it, that it, it actually unveils the things that control me. And so I try to do that maybe once every two weeks, take a day to do that. And those take intention. And I would say that probably that's doable for most people is to do with something that's once every once in a while.

Selene Lau:
The other one, our family, I think, has been that has just been part of life. Now is the Sabbath. To actually take a day as a family. And it's hard in the beginning, I would say when you have lists of things to do and lots to, lots to keep up on, it actually is hard to stop. But Jeremy and I on our Sabbath, and we actually do our Sabbath on Saturday, we just turn off our phones, we turn off our keyboards, and we just spend time as a family and we rest and we read. And interestingly enough, I feel like it's gives us more space the rest of the week in stopping it's become, our rest of the week just feels like there's more time. And so I think that's just a unique way that God's built us to rest. And so I think those are some that are more intentional. But the one about praying while I do fold laundry or just like even a simple prayer. Sometimes I learned a prayer where I'm like folding laundry and I'm just like, "Lord, I'm doing this with you and for you." And it keeps just me grounded. There's other ones that, yeah, just do as I go. Like pray for someone, but honestly, I, I feel like I'm still on a learning curve for that. But those are the few I would say that I've done personally and as a family.

Rob Thiessen:
Right. Right. It's interesting. Like a lot of times we think about the devotional habits, like reading a scripture and prayer. And there are things that we do, right. We get that they're doing things. But what you're describing is some core spiritual disciplines are things you stop doing, like they're they're actually just creating space and stopping yourself from, from the hurry and the list. So silence is, is hard to practice because you're just stopping. And I think of the book that's so popular now, "The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry", which is another Christian author channeling a Dallas Willard concept. Yeah. Which it seems to be. That's what Ortberg has done a lot, too, which is great because it's you know, he's, Dallas Wollard has enough stuff that it's worth repeating by other authors as well. But that ruthless elimination of hurry is another way of talking about it. It's stopping things. It's, it's slowing us down and saying, "No, I have to create space in my life." It's not something I do. It's things that I'm going to stop doing for a time to to let God do or say whatever he has to say.

Selene Lau:
Yeah, there was, I haven't read it. I just heard it lately that he said that someone wrote a book that said that if we were walking with Jesus today, he'd be walking three miles, three miles an hour or something really slow, very slow. But the image is that we always talk about walking with Jesus, but we're just in a hurry that we probably would leave him behind. If we're walking the pace we do now. And I do think if we look at the history of a lot of the classic people like Brother Lawrence or a lot of the classics, I mean, he washed dishes. There was nothing like, there was nothing he was doing that was so significant compared to how we look today. But what he did, why it was so powerful is he just noticed God in it. And and so sometimes the slowing down is that we can say, like, oh, yeah, God's with me. But it's actually take the time to sit in the moment and say God is here in my very mundane task when I'm with my kids, there's, he's in the room. And so, yeah, it's slowing down to pay attention and to notice him.

Rob Thiessen:
That book, "Practicing the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence, that's a classic and accessible you know, I have a, my copy is, gosh, I don't know where it's sitting here. I had it with me just on a prayer retreat a little while ago. But it know the fellow also takes some selected quotes from a number of letters. I think there's maybe 15 or around 20 extant letters from Brother Lawrence. He also includes those in there. And I was on a, like a little prayer and fasting retreat, which, you know, I don't know nearly often enough, but, but I was out for a few days. And, it was interesting to read that Brother Lawrence, you know, just talked about how frustrating his prayer retreats often were, and he felt like, you know, he was a lot closer to God when he was just practicing the presence of God in the normal routines. But it doesn't. And I thought, yeah, no, I totally get that. You know, I set aside this time and I've given up hoping that something amazing is going to happen. I set it aside just to say, no, no, no. This is because, uh actually my soul needs this. I'm not quite sure how, but it does. I need to set aside this time to pay attention to, to what God is, God is speaking to me so that that book has been really and it's a much easier read than saying tackling, you know, some of the books that have been written currently.

Selene Lau:
Yeah. Like Julian of Norwich it was like giant, giant books or like even Teresa of Avila. Those are harder reads, but, Brother Lawrence is much, it's more accessible.

Rob Thiessen:
It's like spiritual disciplines for dummies.

Selene Lau:
Which I still need.

Rob Thiessen:
You know. So maybe that's one of our recommended resources from this conversation. So I just have a question. Interesting question. Your, you work with Power to Change and, you know equipping campus ministry people there. How do you see these practices relating to the Great Commission and the great commandment? So you're, you're a person involved in mission. And, you know, how do, how do you do this with your staff and how does this relate to mission?

Selene Lau:
You know, that I, I think that it's at the heart of it, which it can easily be seen as two different things, like, you know, if only contemplatives that go into disciplines and then we're a missions organization. And I feel like what's great about this time, it's merging. But I would say I would start with actually I would start with the great commandment, because what we're actually wanting people to know and to ultimately obey is love the Lord, your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind. And, but how do we get them there? And I and I think that that second verse I would focus on before I hit the Great Commission would be that we love because he first loved us. I think at the heart of kind of what you brought up in the beginning is the heart of our goal of who we are as believers is a deep, loving relationship with Jesus. And so I think that if that's the goal, then we need to, we need to figure out what's the process of that. And I feel like spiritual disciplines and spiritual formation is very much at the heart of that. How do we as people, as sinners, as unbelievers receive the love of God and how do we grow in in responding in love back to him disciplines that allow us that? And out of that, it's an overflow to loving our neighbor. And I think that why it relates to the Great Commission is that we, we know that the call is to make disciples of all nations.

Selene Lau:
And so similar to what before is in the past, I kept thinking, we'll just imitate, just do what the disciples did, do what Jesus did. But the calls actually to become like him. And so spiritual formation is part and parcel of discipleship of saying we want to follow and in what he did, but how do we become like him? And ultimately, the the part of the verse undergirds it is that "I'm with you always". He is with us. And I think sometimes in missions we have this idea that God is like sitting at home. He sends us out and he waits us, waits at home for us to come back. But the reality is that in everything we do, we're partnering with him. He is with us. And so if we have that, the practices that keep us aware of who he is and we are growing in that, then discipleship, it's part of discipling people. And so they're whether they go into ministry or whether they are teachers, or doctors, or dentists, or moms that they know and all the things they're doing, they're partnering with God. His kingdom is here. How are we partnering with him? And so I think that with my staff, they are busy on campus with students and with other staff. And one of the things I do is I lead a prayer, a prayer meeting every two weeks with them right now. And one of the things we do is that is it's not a conventional prayer meeting in this way, is that we have a time always where we share prayer requests and we pray.

Selene Lau:
But my heart for them is that when we come together every two weeks is that we encounter God together, that we would be reminded of, that our primary goal is encountering and being and remembering that we're beloved by him. So. We actually practice now as a staff, so we're about 15 to 20, we we practice being silent together. So because we know that growth also comes in community, we don't do it alone, so we practice being silent together. We, some of the some of the more specific practices like the exam and our Lectio Divina, those things we've practiced together. And in it my heart is that they would discover new ways of, of connecting with God. And and it's been a two year process and we're still in it. But what I've seen is that it's been rich for them to know, like, oh, there's new ways. And and I always we always say in our prayer meetings, we come, that was we come, now it's is on Zoom, but we're like, we leave our titles and our successes and failures at the door. We come together and we just remind each other that we're beloved children and that we are image bearers. We bear his image. And I feel like there's been a growing trust in our team, but it's mostly because we, we set our hearts on encountering God. So the practices I've incorporated even in our team times, because sometimes it's really hard to do it by ourselves that we're learning together. And so that's been a joy.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah, that's really good. You know, when I ask that question about how practices relate to the Great Commission, you know, I'm reminded about, you know, different times that when I was pastoring, we took missions, trips often, with people. We went to China a bunch of times with a church and people took groups. And on those trips we always experience, lots of spiritual formation. And, and just I think like this is just to resonate with what you're saying. Like mission is spiritual formation. The discipline of service is is a great spiritual discipline and practice. So what I hear you saying is, you know, the way you incorporate them is to recognize that they are integral to each other and that when a person is out serving, doing mission, then to learn to be attentive to the presence of Christ, you know, we may we're doing exactly what he did, but we're following his path when we wash the feet of other people, when we bring a cup of cold water, when we preach the gospel, we're being and to be attentive to what he is doing. And also that turns it into like a spiritual discipline, a growth, a time to experience God in the middle of it.

Selene Lau:
Yeah. And I and I think to absolutely. And I would say that that's why they're, they go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other. I think where I would maybe push a little further is that sometimes we assume because we're doing it, that our hearts are changing. The one thing, especially this year with the whole that whole area of social justice and racism, one of the things that I've I've learned from others, but we're paying attention is that how are we actually growing and loving the other, you know, and some practices require serving or putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations. Other practices require listening. And, and do we actually see everyone as an image bearer of Christ? And in those, it's not just like an, oh I've checked the box I've served, but how is my heart actually growing in loving my neighbor? And so, yeah, they they go, they go together once, and you can not be connected because once your heart grows, there's no way not to act. You know, when you see injustice, God calls us to fight for justice. So the two, the two are are crucial to each other. You can't have one without the other.

Rob Thiessen:
Well, Selene, talk to us a little bit about those practices that maybe are a little bit different or unusual, maybe, like we mentioned already, the practice of reading scripture, prayer and fasting, silence and solitude. Those are big ones that people name. Are there any sort of like unusual spiritual practices that maybe relate to the technical, technological age that we're in, that that you've practiced in community and have found to be productive? Maybe that that our pastors think about with their team or ways to, yeah, sort of stretch their thinking and experience of spiritual formation and practices.

Selene Lau:
Yeah. So I would just give credit to Renovare first because I didn't come up with a lot of them. They've kind of helped me throw to more creative ones. Some are technology based and some are more just unique ones I've found for myself. The technology ones, I would say one of them I it's something you can do on your team, and we've done this and this is it, actually, it has to do more with being present with each other. And so every time we have our Zoom call, I actually force everyone to take a moment to look at each person on the screen. It's a practice. And I and one of the things I've done is say, I want you to remember each person on the screen is an image bearer and you know, and deeply loved by God. And somehow and you just taking a few minutes to do that, I feel like everyone's much more present in the call. Because Zoom is it's just easier to just look at a sea of faces. So it's a small practice, but one to just pay attention to the people on the screen. Another one that I learned from Renovare that is seems a little bit out there, but is kind of fun. So we talk about being attentive to God and how do we be, noticed him in our everyday. And so one of the suggestions they had is to put a timer on your phone and that it beeps once an hour. And in that moment it feels kind of jarring. But it's just a beep to remind you that God is present and so that there's just like an actual reminder, because we can go through like I usually start really strong in the morning and then slowly it degrades, I feel like I lose track of some of the things I learned in morning. So they suggested that, I thought that was kind of fun, actually, just to have a beep. And it's like I could be doing something and that "ding" just kind of reminds me that God's here with me.

Rob Thiessen:
Like, can you use like a, you know, a sound of angels or like instead of a beep, you know?

Selene Lau:
I'm sure there's one, thanks for the suggestion. Let's use that in the future. But I think yeah, the other one I would say is there's two apps that I found really helpful. Some of there's one called, "Dwell", it's an app, it's a Bible reading app. But what I love about it is "Dwell," they read the scripture, but there's a meditation mode where you can repeat it and or they give like three minutes of silence. And so there's, it's an app that is really I found really helpful in just meditating on scripture because it's made in such a way to do that. Another one that was started by, his name's Pete Grieg he started twenty four seven prayer is called, "Lectio 365". And it's just a ten minute meditation. It has scripture and has prayer like, and what I've loved about it is it's literally ten minutes long. So I actually use that on my drive home from dropping my kids off school. I just listen to it in the car. It gives me a moment to just focus on God. I don't use it every day, but it's been one that has been good. And I think technology other than that personally, it's just been having a discipline of when to use it and when not to. I don't have any I'm sure other pastors and other leaders have other creative ways. I would say that the, I would say with disciplines, the idea what you brought up, Rob, is about adding or subtracting things that would help us grow. So if there's things that are controlling us, so we say reading the news is a control, then fast from it for a while, take away the things that are, that override that kind of control.

Selene Lau:
I had a friend who was a businessman and he actually decided for six months, sometimes it's just for a season to switch to a flip phone because he just realized his phone was controlling his life. And he will admit that it was the most frustrating experience being on a flip phone because you can't text. You know how like number one is like four letters. He's like it was the slowest, the slowest, you know, means of communicating when you're businessman. But he said what it helped him do was slow down. And for a season, it was really helpful. Another one, I think so it's being creative for me, for example, if I'm kind of a serious person, I grew up pretty serious and having like very orderly. And one of the things I realized and Richard Foster in his book about discipline talk about celebration, and I realized I needed to implement celebration into my life. So I decided for a while that every time there was a birthday or any significant thing my my kids did, we would have a big party. So cupcakes and ice cream or play music and do dance party. And they're not natural for me, but I needed to grow in delighting and, and in having fun. And so I think disciplines can be fun things to it's actually just paying attention to the things that that yeah, that, that kind of trip us up. And we forget that God is a God of delight. So one of my friends, she realized she wanted to be more kid like because God is just, you know, there's

Rob Thiessen:
We should be like a child,

Selene Lau:
Be like a child. And so she decided to just color with crayons, like for a while, like her devotions were coloring and and it was just and she did in the discipline. So I think discipline there are times there is discipline. Other times is just a practice to help us draw closer to God or going for a walk, enjoying nature, doing things that would help us remind us of who God is.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah, that's that's good. So some of this practicing spiritual disciplines can be like taylored. We we can just think, oh, we've got these categories and we think spiritual disciplines. And I think Desert Fathers, we think this person or, you know, this model. So then what? What do we do? And we look for a guide. And maybe what you're suggesting is we do something as simple as just ask the Lord and say, well, good Lord, how have you made me or what's missing? And and I think of situations say like if we find ourselves being irritable, which many people during this time of Covid are noticing about themselves, I notice about myself, too. So to think and meditate on what would be a discipline that I could cultivate, you know, a generous spirit and attitude towards others. So, or even being rushed, you know, it's I think someone suggested once, you know, make a decision to, you know, take the let somebody else go ahead of you in a lineup, make a decision to drive to work like I have a commute and just go the speed limit. Yeah. Drive in the right hand lane, not the left hand lane, like just doing things that make you slow down a little bit and quit being that, you know, that rushing person that a lot of a lot of a lot of us have become.

Selene Lau:
Yeah. Or I that's a great one. I think practice is a lot of a lot of it's done like behind the scenes in our hearts. I think I share with you when we were talking before, one of the ones that has still marked me and I still see it is at one point in our in our class, they said tried for a month not to have the last word in every conversation. Oh ouch. Yeah. And I was like, it was shocking to me, to myself that I was, that I felt so what I noticed when I had to do it or I chose to do it was that I have a need to prove myself and I have a need to be right. And many times in conversations, I'm thinking ahead before someone's done talking. But it helped me pay attention to that. And so now I'm I've done it for several months now and I continue to do once in a while is to actually not have the last word. And in doing it I've, it's changed the way I perceive people and grown my appreciation because now I'm listening and I'm paying attention. But it was hard. But those are practices that you can just do or say, you know, someone's struggles with like, you know, pride or, you know, showing off than just doing things in the secret, do things behind. And those are the ways that God forms us because we struggle with it, but then we keep giving it to him. Saying Lord, would you help me? And the Holy Spirit gladly enters into those.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And we're, we're learning to recognize the presence of God in the lives of other people. And and maybe maybe when we typically think about spiritual disciplines, we think about all, you know solitude, my communion with God, what the spirit of God is saying. But maybe there's a whole lot of grace and a whole lot of God to be discovered in another person that that God's wanting to show us and teach us about himself through their lives. I mean, every person in a marriage knows that, right? That that all of a sudden I'm I'm discovering, and children, you know, also and oh, wow, I'm I'm learning things about God now through these close relationships that I didn't know before.

Selene Lau:
Yeah, very much so.

Rob Thiessen:
Hey, one question I wanted to ask you before we wrap up on the conversation. Spiritual direction. So, you know, a number of pastors maybe are curious about it. We have some pastors that have had been blessed with a spiritual direction relationship. You know, what is spiritual direction? How can pastors and believers benefit in their discipleship journey through spending time with a director? And, you know, I don't know. Are there, is this is this for everyone or what if you you know, I don't know if there's that many directors around for, for, for, for every Christian who might be hungry for it. If you can't identify like a specific spiritual director, is there a way to gain a benefit in community? So maybe talk to us a little bit about that.

Selene Lau:
Yeah, I would say so I'm by no means I'm still learning in it, and I've had I've had a spiritual director for a few years, but I would say that I think a spiritual director, one way of I would put it is it's the third person in the room. And what I mean by that is a spiritual director, I think its role is to help us pay attention to what God's doing, the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives. And what I found helpful is that there's so much going on, whether it's ministry or family or just circumstantially. And it's easy, like you could talk to lots of different people about it. But my spiritual director always asks a question and it really slows me down. So there was a period of time where there a lot going with my kids and I was really struggling. And her question to me was this. She's like, "So Selene, like, what is God's invitation to you in this right now?" And and that was that has been a profound question for me and all the things I'm doing. But I think a spiritual director, that's the role they play is saying, let's listen to God together. Or are you asking the questions of where is God's presence in the midst of this challenge you're facing? Why is there resistance happening in your heart in this area? Are you, as you're reading, what are you noticing? And I think that a spiritual director just points us and they have new a lot of them are trained with different tools to help us notice what God is doing. And so I would say it's really beneficial in in just having someone pay attention to God with us.

Selene Lau:
And you're right, there's lots of there's more spiritual directors trained now. So there's the potential of finding one online or at a different seminary. But I think it can happen even with close friends and I and I, but I do think the process is different. So what I think normally happens with friends is we kind of jump in with solutions and we jump in with, oh, you know, like I've heard of this and we have a scripture passage. And I would say it's more like the idea of a listening group together to God. Someone shares and then you just wait and you sit together and you ask questions and and it when you feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to actually bring something up, a lot of it's asking questions and asking where is God showing up in it. So I think that the idea is paying attention to God together. I think a spiritual director is trained to notice specific things. And so having one that has training would be awesome. But I also think that friends can do that. We just have to be careful in it that it's not just like, you know, a mutually like, oh, we're just going to give answers and fix it, because most of the time I leave my meetings with my spiritual director, not necessarily having more answers, but I'm I'm actually pushed to ask God more, more and talk to him more and engage with what he's doing in my heart more. So that's what I would say about spiritual directors.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. And what are the

Rob Thiessen:
pitfalls that people might be wanting to be aware of or avoid on the journey of exploring spiritual disciplines?

Selene Lau:
We've mentioned a few I think just what you said in terms of one of them is just thinking it kind of puts us in a holier category. But, you know, like, let me do this. If I fast for 10 days or, you know, if I am, I'm going to go on a 10 day retreat. And we think that it adds more to who we are. But the reality is there's nothing we can do to add or take away God's love for us. And it does, there's no ranking in his world, in his kingdom. And so we do them because we want to draw deeper into intimacy with him. And so a pitfall is thinking that it adds like a check to our lists, our resumé of of being a Christian. So that is one. The second one is perfectionism, as if that if I practice one long enough, I'll get it right. But the reality is we never get it right. It's not about getting it right. And that. Yeah, that it's about drawing closer. And so if there's one that's not doing much, then let it go and do something else that if it if it's time to move on to something else and try new things, that would cause us to grow more in him. So to let go of perfectionism in it, there's this too.

Selene Lau:
The other one is that it is a long journey to be spiritually formed. When I was in, my cohort in Renovare. There was at one point Richard Foster scoped in and they were asking him questions about some of the practices he's doing. And his answers just made us laugh a little bit, but also really humble because he said, yeah, I've been doing this for about ten years and I'm finally seeing some fruit. And I just don't think we hear that these days. We want like a silver bullet, something that will cause quick change. But one of my profs said spiritual formation is the slowest movement on the face of this planet. And it's a lifelong journey. And I think to be patient and that leads to the fourth pitfall is that recovered by grace? There's no, I'll give the example with fasting. I like, I always feel like, oh, I can't get this right. But then at the same time, I just remember there's grace and I can try again and there's no there's no condemnation in him. He wants me to grow in him. So is that were covered by his love and grace and he's just drawing us to him and to remember that.

Rob Thiessen:
That's so good. That's so important. I know even with a basic discipline like life journaling, or you know Lectio Divina that,

Rob Thiessen:
You know, I always try to communicate to people just because you have a list of scriptures to read every day, like if, you know, don't let that checkmark become your self validation because it's just not that way, and you miss some days you come back to it, you're not defeated. You're not any less in God's eyes. But he's in, but the calendar is there as a reminder that you're always invited back to the table. He's waiting for you.

Selene Lau:
Yes.

Rob Thiessen:
And that's good. You better say something, because I don't want to have the last word in this conversation.

Selene Lau:
Uh sure, I, I think that I would say maybe my encouragement to leaders, because this is a lot of pastors and leaders and I, I've liked still to learn, but I would say that probably for this season I was talking to my husband about it, that our encouragement to our staff and leaders around us is to really do less and less in this way is allow the Lord to minister to you. And if you have a, if you have time, like if there's a few days or a day of retreat, I would say one of the things that I would meditate on is Psalm twenty three. Just sit with that. And especially in this challenging season, I think we need to be anchored in the fact that he's our shepherd, that he restores our soul. He leads us down right path and allow his love to anchor us in such a way that it flows. And I know that with a lot of lately, it's like how do we I think the biggest thing we can do and be is a non anxious presence in a world of uncertainty. And the only way we can be that is if we're grounded deeply in the love of God and in who he is. And so I would say that, yeah, there's lots to do as leaders and ministers, but the best thing and the most fruitful thing is that we are grounded in him so that his presence kind of emanates from everything that we do.

Rob Thiessen:
Amen. Well, that's a great way to wrap up our conversation. Selene, It's been really a blessing to to spend an hour with you. And I know it's been and there will be an encouragement to our listeners and, so do the BCMB family or whoever else is listening across Canada, the world, thanks for spending this time with us. And may the Lord bless you and encourage you on your journey of formation, paying attention to to what God is teaching you. So until next time. Bye for now. Bye Selene. Thank you for being with us.

Selene Lau:
Thank you for having me.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

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