I am with you always to the very end of the age. (Matt. 28:20)
(Watch 3 minute introduction to the series above)
God is always with us and actively participating in the world within and around us, but sometimes God’s presence and activity can be hard to recognize. The goal of this workshop series is to help individuals and groups move into a greater awareness of God’s living presence and activity in our lives. This “Greater Awareness” series will build on the Foundations for Connecting With God workshop series a group of us did over the winter, but is designed so that even if you did not make it to the Foundations series you can join right in and fully participate in this one with no problem. (The reading and details of that training are available here). Each 90 minute workshop in this series will combine a short teaching, simple guided exercises, conversation, and a mixture of full group and small group settings. The exercises are designed to be as simple, safe, and easy to participate in as possible. Optional pre-reading will be emailed out prior to each workshop. You are welcome to attend all, some, or any one particular workshop, though I personally recommend coming to as many as possible as these gatherings tend to be very meaningful and rich.
The content and exercises for this series are heavily inspired by a model of interactive prayer called the Immanuel Approach developed primarily by Dr Karl Lehman and Dr Jim Wilder. I (Andy Ross) have adapted the exercises to be very simple and focused to provide experiential learning related to the key themes of each week. No previous experience with the Immanuel Approach or our workshops is necessary. Andy Ross (hopefully with inspiration from the Holy Spirit) is designing and facilitating this workshop series. The teaching sections of these workshops may be recorded so that they can eventually become a guided video series that anyone can use in their own communities and churches to help people move into a greater experiential awareness of God’s presence. Below is a brief description of each workshop:
(Click the workshop titles for additional reading)
April 26, (Workshop 1) Introduction and Overview of the Series: This workshop will offer a brief summary of what was covered in the previous “Foundations for Connecting With God Series” and then look ahead to what will be presented in this “Greater Awareness of God Series”. If you are not sure whether to join for the whole series, you are welcome to come to this introductory workshop and get an idea of what to expect. An important part of this gathering will also be meeting the other neat people who will be joining in the series and getting to know one another a little better.
May 10, (Workshop 2) Noticing More: What are some of the ways you have experienced God’s presence and activity in your life? God can and, I believe, does interact with us all the time both directly and indirectly in a huge variety of ways. This workshop will explore the critical role our attention plays in how much of God’s presence and activity we recognize. Where we turn our attention, how open or focused our attention is, and what our brains understand to be worth paying attention to are all important elements in recognizing God’s input more clearly. Many of these ideas will be explored in the pre-workshop reading allowing more time for practice and discussion during the workshop. For those who want to we will also likely include the simple exercise of sharing a positive memory with a small break out group and asking what God wants us to notice in the memory.
May 24, (Workshop 3) Naming More: One of Dr Karl Lehman’s key discoveries in the development of a model of interactive prayer he calls the Immanuel Approach was that when people share out loud what is coming into their awareness with another person, it becomes much easier to recognize it’s importance and how it fits into the larger picture of what God is showing us. The subtle flow of thoughts is one of the key ways that God seems to communicate with us, but it can be very hard to distinguish which thoughts are likely from God and which are likely from our own busy brains. It seems that sharing thoughts out loud, to the extent that it feels safe, is one way to more easily recognize thoughts that are likely coming from God. Those who want to will have the chance to do some simple safe exercises to practice this skill.
June 7, (Workshop 4) Welcoming More: One extremely simple step we can take to increase our awareness of God’s presence is directly welcoming God to be with us and to share with us. We can make this request in different ways depending on the context. God’s responses are often (perhaps always?) immediate and meaningful. One concrete exercise participants will have the option to implement in this workshop is inviting God’s presence in the context of a positive memory. This often leads to either an increased sense of God’s transcendent presence, or to a stronger direct awareness of God in the memory, such as seeing Jesus with you in the memory.
June 21, (Workshop 5) Expecting More: One important element in increasing our awareness of God is simply expecting that God is present and active all the time. If we have a very narrow and limited functional world-view that supposes God set the world in motion and then stands at a distance for the rest of human history then we will probably not expect God to be relating to us much at all and therefore we won’t be paying attention to ways that God may be engaging with us directly or indirectly. If, on the other hand, we expect that God is present, wants a relationship with us, cares about us, and is very interested and capable of relating to us through billions of different means, then we may be paying more attention. If we expect further that not only can God interact with us through indirect means like scripture, circumstances, and other people, but also through direct revelation such as spontaneous thoughts and even seeing images of Jesus/God with us with our spiritual eyes, then we may begin expecting more still and therefore inviting more and watching for more.
July 5, (Workshop 6) Allowing More: We all run into blocks or limits to perceiving God’s presence and guidance in our lives. There are a lot of possible reasons for these blockages. For example, what I call major foundations for connecting with God such as joy, rest, or love may not be adequately present in the moment causing someone to feel emotionally unsafe. When we don’t feel adequately safe, our brain tends to get locked onto perceived threats/problems and is not very interested in relational connection or taking in new information. However, another important block or limit to our awareness of God’s presence is that at some level we are not open to receiving either what God is showing us, or what God might show us. I think we all have certain areas of our lives/stories/internal world where these blocks will appear and it is hard to allow the Lord in. Usually there is an understandable fear or concern under this resistance, and sometimes the concern can be resolved in minutes while other times it may take many emotional healing sessions to resolve. Either way, there is a blockage that limits how deeply we allow ourselves to be aware of God’s presence or input. This workshop will begin to open this very large topic of what we allow into our awareness and offer some simple starting points such as talking to God or other people about our concerns.
July 19, (Workshop 7) Recognizing More: Jesus said in John 10 that his sheep recognize his voice and follow him. As we practice noticing and welcoming more of God’s presence and participation in our lives we get more experience with recognizing what kinds of things may be coming from God and what might not be from God. It is not necessary to know for sure if something is coming from God when still in the stage of just opening our awareness to God’s presence and activity as that can be worked out through more careful discernment later. As we practice more, we get better at recognizing more quickly when God seems to be speaking to us. Dallas Willard has a lot of helpful insights in this area in his book called Hearing God. Many others such as Mark Virkler and of course Dr Karl Lehman, Dr Jim Wilder, and countless others have also written about this topic.
Workshop 2 Noticing More: Psalm 19:1-4. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
Workshop 3 Naming More: Psalm 89:1. “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.”
Workshop 4 Welcoming More: Revelation 3:20. “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
Workshop 5 Expecting More: Matthew 14:15-21. As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” 16 Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” 17 “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. 18 “Bring them here to me,” he said. 19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21 The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
Workshop 6: Allowing More: Matthew 23:37. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (NIV)
Workshop 7 Recognizing More: John 10:27-30. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Format: These 90 minute workshops combine both full group teaching and debrief with smaller break out groups of 3 or 4 people for conversation and experiential learning.
Cost: Free/Suggested voluntary donation of $15-$30 per workshop. Please feel no obligation to give but if you would like to make a contribution your gifts are very helpful for covering the significant amount of time and resources it takes to create, organize and run these workshops. You will see an option to make a gift when you register or you can always access the donate page. Please note that to comply with tax codes contributions are not tax deductible.
Prerequisites: No previous experience necessary. It may be helpful look over the material in the Foundations for Connecting With God Series but this is not required. Please invite your friends.
Recording: Note that we record teaching and full group discussion portions of some of our workshop to use as training resources for people who were not able to attend the workshop. Break out rooms will not be recorded. You can always email or contact us the workshop trainer and ask us to remove you or any comments you want removed from the edited version of the training video.
Facilitator: Andy Ross
Below are a few guidelines to help the group feel as safe and connected as possible. Each person’s presence really matters in the group and these are some things that can help us all care for each other and be present to each other.
- Everything is optional: to promote a sense of safety all exercises are optional and voluntary.
- Respect confidentiality: unless someone is in danger of harm, or you have been given permission by the person to share, we ask group members to keep personal sharing by others confidential.
- Lean in lean out: If you tend to talk a lot, try to hold space for those who are more quiet, and if you tend to be more quiet you may try to lean in and share a little more. Try if possible to listen to your gut sense about what the Holy Spirit may is encouraging you to share or keep within your own heart.
- Please be caring: People tend to do really well with this one.
- Please call in from a private room/space where other people will not be listening in or walking by as this can feel uncomfortable for other participants who may be sharing vulnerable things.
- Please don’t drive while on the call.
Over time our workshops have developed a solid culture of welcome, safety, connection, and freedom to flow with God’s Spirit. Our main expectations are simply that we be caring toward one another, create space for one another, and remain open to what God’s Spirit is doing. We look forward to the honor of your presence.