Thursday, February 18, 2016

SNEAK PEAK: Christ Walk Kids!

It is the season of Lent and I wanted to share with you all a chapter from the "Christ Walk Kids" book coming out from Church Publishing, Inc in Fall of 2016.

In this chapter, we discuss with tweens and teens the meaning of Lent and the implications of the season as a child of God.


Day 14: What is Lent, Anyway?

Biblical Big Idea: He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild animals, and the angels took care of him. ––Mark 1:13

Lent is a season during the church year that comes before Easter. Lent reminds us of the time in which Jesus went away from his disciples to go into the wilderness to fast (not eat or drink) for forty days and forty nights while focusing on prayer with God. Many people much smarter than me have debated exactly how Jesus survived for forty days and forty nights without food or drink. I do not need that level of specific understanding of what happened back then. I am comfortable with simply having faith.
When I read this passage, my understanding is that Jesus separated himself from the world for a long time, denying his human needs in order to focus on his spiritual needs and his relationship with God. During Lent, Christians (that includes me and you) are called to be more like Jesus during this time. This is one reason that Christ Walk makes a good Lenten discipline.
Different people have focused on becoming more like Jesus in many different ways. Some people give things up during Lent (sweets, bread, soda, arguing, whining, fighting) and other people take on new habits that they feel draw them closer to God (studying the Bible, working in a homeless shelter, doing a good deed each day, praying, walking, running, meditating). All of these habits make ourselves more like Jesus and thus closer to God. All of these are Christ Walk “miles” and activities.
In the Christ Walk program, we choose to walk steps and take on different activities that represent our relationship with God as a part of our journey. You may do this during Lent or during some other time of the year. Anytime is a good time to be more like Jesus. It does not only need to happen during Lent. What does need to happen is that you need to choose habits to focus on and improve that will instill discipline in your life that bring you closer to God.

Things to Think About:
1.      What’s a discipline?
2.      What are some disciplines I can take on that bring me closer to God?
3.      What are some habits that I need to give up in order to get closer to God?
4.      How does it make me feel to give something up for a long period of time?
5.      What do I think was on Jesus’ mind when he was in the wilderness?

A Note to Parents:

Christ Walk Kids  covers many topics related to health and spirituality: physical exercise, nutrition, sex, drinking, drugs, praying, lying, stealing, bullying, and many others.  I did not write the book for kids to read in a vacuum.  I wrote the book as though I were talking to my own children with the hope that it would open up honest dialogue between my child and me.  I hope you will also read the book with your children) and go on a journey with them that helps to build a foundation of healthy choices: mind, body, and spirit.  I think having an open dialogue about any subject with our children is the key to understanding what is going on in their brains and their lives.  This book is how I would talk to my kids.  It may not be how you would talk to yours, so again, include yourself on their journey and share your own thoughts and feelings on the topic.  You may be surprised at the discussion the topics generate.  Be open; listen actively; and no matter what you hear, love your child anyway.

You may not agree with everything I wrote.  That's fine, just talk about those thoughts and feelings with your child and you will be building a spiritually fit relationship with your son or daughter that doesn't shy away for their spiritual and physical and mental development.  It takes a tribe to raise children.  We are all in it together.  #christwalk.

~~Love, Anna

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

St. Luke's Christ Walk Week 1: 8 Steps to an amazing-good Christ Walk

People often ask me what I do when I run a six week Christ Walk Program.  Many of those examples are included in the "Suggestions for group leaders" in the appendices of the "Christ Walk: A 40 Day Spiritual Fitness Program" Book.  However, to give you a flavor of what our first week together looked like, I will share with you our agenda:

1)  We ate together.

2)  We prayed together.

3)  We did an ice breaker where we got to know each other.

4)  We broke into teams (Team sizes should be between 4-8 people, but no more than 8).

5) We talked about Christ Walk.  I provided an overview of the program and the book.  We discussed walking routes (Appendix A).  We discussed ways to earn miles:  You can pray for miles; you can volunteer your way to earn miles; you can earn miles through physical exercise.  We discussed the importance of WRITING DOWN ALL THOSE MILES (you need to share those miles with your team each week).  We discussed most importantly how God doesn't just ask for us to take our normal every day journeys. Rather, God asks us to stretch ourselves.  God doesn't just want a quarter of us, God wants ALL of us.  God wants EVERY step to be a part of your journey as a Christian, not just the every day steps.  We discussed ways to stretch and grow as a Christian.  We discussed ways to push yourself through to goals that are just out of reach.

6)  By the end of that discussion, people were thinking about which biblical route they wanted to take as an individual.  THEN, they go together with their groups and came up with a Team NAME, a team GOAL, and a Team Prayer.

7) Each group shared their name, goal, and prayer with the larger group.

8)  Each participant had homework:  They need to read up through Chapter 12 for next Sunday, they need to work on their mile goals and write them down and they need to pray for their team members and their journey.

We closed with the Lord's Prayer courtesy of the Children's Christ Walk group and I hopefully left everyone pumped with the journey ahead.  The trick to successful Christ Walk groups?  Successful Christ Walk groups pray, share, interact, laugh, walk, love, eat, and become a community of Christians and Christ Walkers together.  However you go about your Christ Walk group, if you focus on these goals, you all will have a great time.

Next week, we'll talk about how God wants us to Change and develop strategies for change using visioning exercises.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Christ Walk from the Pulpit

Yesterday, I had the honor of preaching (this word makes me very nervous--I have never seen myself as a preacher, so as I write it, I cringe a little.  Don't ask me why, it is one of my hang-ups.  HA!) at both the 8 am and 10 am service at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Alexandria, VA.  I was speaking on Christ Walk as a part of the kick-off to our six-week Lenten series. 

I would like to share with you those words I gave to my church with the hope that you all will also take a Christ Walk journey with me:

Good morning!  The last 3 months, I have been critiquing our seminarian's sermons as a part of the seminarian committee.  Scott assures me there will be payback as I stand at the pulpit myself for a change.  :)

Let me tell you a little bit about myself.

My name is Anna and I am here to talk to you about my program, "Christ Walk: a 40 Day spiritual fitness program."  I hope you will use Christ Walk as a part of your Lenten discipline or as a part of a future spiritual journey. Christ Walk is all about dedicating your daily practice to God: mind, body and spirit.

I am a registered nurse by training.  Through my job and my ministry, I have been working in the healthcare field for over 18 years now.  I developed the Christ Walk program in 2008 out of a strong call to combine my physical health with my spiritual health and share this with others. 

I have often felt people separate their mind, body and spiritual health into silos.  We allocate time for church life separate from our home and work life.  Similarly, we allocate time for physical health, separate from our spiritual development.  We cannot reach an optimum level of health when we segregate our mental, spiritual and physical sides.  This lent, I invite you on a journey that will integrate your mind, body and spiritual health.

Lent is not like Christmas. People drag their feet towards lent rather than the eager countdown to Christ's birth, Santa Claus and many presents.  The Easter bunny does not hold a candle to Santa Claus.  I think deep down we know that we may have focused a little too much on the secular side of Christmas, focusing on gifts and parties and indulgences rather than the coming of Christ.  When Lent rolls around, following the Christmas rush, we feel a little guilty.  We feel a little out of step with our Christian practice.

Lent reminds us that our Christian practice is more than gifts and Christmas trees. Lent intrudes upon our Christian practice.  I find it ironic, because Lent is a period of preparation for the greatest gift of them all:  Christ's death and resurrection.  Lent is a time where we need to prepare ourselves for the gift of Christ's sacrifice.

Lent reminds people that they need to change. While the gift of Christ is freely given, it comes at a cost: The cost of Jesus' crucifixion. The crucifixion is also freely given, yet it reminds us that we need to be better people to honor the gift of death in order that we might have life everlasting.  The gift of the resurrection reminds us all that God has the power to transform. God will transform you spiritually, physically, and mentally if we allow God into our daily practice.

God transformed me.  When I was 12, I lost my hearing to an auto-immune disease.  At the time, the doctors did not know what was going on with me.  My blood work was very abnormal and I was put on many experimental therapies to try and stop my hearing loss.  Three years later, many drug therapies later, I still lost all my hearing.  I stand before you today, legally deaf.  I wear cochlear implants that allow me to hear, but for a period of time, I did not hear at all.

During this time, I have a very vivid memory of being at church.  We had all stood to say the Nicene Creed.  I could not hear at all.  At this point, in my journey, I was deaf and without any hearing aids.  I became very, very angry.  I felt abandoned by God, and I thought it was very pointless to be at church when I felt that I could not participate in the liturgy.  I remember to this day, the furious tears, and the hot feeling under my skin as I sat down and refused to participate in the rest of the service. You know that feeling.  Your skin tingles, you feel hot, and red, and your hair feels like it is standing on end.

My mind was screaming, "How can I do this and not hear?" "How can I be fully participatory in the church experience when I am so broken?"   As a willful teenager, I felt like screaming in my head, "What's the point?"  I dearly wanted to walk out of that church and never come back.  I felt there was no place for me.  Illness and Disease have a way of making you feel that you are something less.  Disease and illness have this tendency to take away your identity, even as a Christian.

 During this moment in the service where I felt less than, I felt more than alone.  I felt abandoned as an individual.  I was paralyzed by being unable to hear and participate in the communion with other people.

And then the Eucharist began. I felt a sudden peace come over me.  My tears stopped.  My heart rate slowed.  I felt like I was being hugged.  I distinctly remember the presence of the Holy Spirit.  And it spoke to me.  And I heard God tell me that I did not have to HEAR to participate.  My Christ Walk had little to do with what I was HEARING and everything to do with what I was doing in my life.  We are not only called to HEAR the gospel, but we are called to LIVE it.  My hearing may be broken, but I can still live the gospel.  I still have a purpose.  For 35 years I worked at "Christ Walking" with what I have, with how God made me.  I developed this program and I wrote this book, I felt like I was living a Christ-centered life.

And then, In October of 2014, at the same time my book was being published, I was diagnosed with Follicular Lymphoma.  Once again, my identity as a healthy member of the church of God, as a pillar of health and fitness was being challenged by my personal thoughts on who I was as an individual.  I had gotten wrapped up in a perception of what I thought was and how healthy should be portrayed.  I dearly wondered how I could publish a book on health and fitness when I was ill.  Once again, disease and illness was trying to threaten who I was and make me less than what God intended for me.

I have come to realize that God gave me other gifts besides my hearing.  God has made me more than my cancer.  I have learned that I can manage my disease through exercise, good nutrition and managing my mind, body and spiritual health. My cancer does not change that I need to Christ Walk each day.

So,  I invite you to join me in the Christ Walk program to see how the Holy Spirit can transform your life, mind, body and spirit.  You are more than your disease, illness, anxieties, pains, and problems.  God can also use you in the midst of your brokenness.  God uses me daily, and I am very, very broken individual.

Christ Walk is a 40 day program designed to prepare yourself mind, body and spirit to lead a Christ-filled life that is also healthy.  We need to learn to treat our broken bodies with care because as St. Paul tells us: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?"

Our bodies house the gift of the Holy Spirit. Genesis tells us that we are made in the image of God.  Very few of us treat our bodies like temples or as though God loved us so much to be made in God's image.

Rather, we make choices that treat our bodies in a careless fashion.  We punish our bodies for our thoughts, feelings, and anxieties.  We blame our bodies for being broken.  We eat too much, drink too much, fail to exercise, misuse medications, stress too much and make choices that do not care for this body that has the Holy Spirit within us.  We do not treat ourselves like temples.

Lent is an opportunity for us to relook at our everyday habits, not only spiritually, but also physically and mentally so that we can turn to Christ in all of our choices, not just in our prayer life.  A Christ-like life, is something that we should chose to try and live each day.  Not just on church holidays.

This Lent, choose the Christ Walk program.  What does this mean? Instead of giving up chocolate, or sweets or other temptation, I ask you to take a walk with me.  Christ Walk is a devotional that uses walking different biblical routes to symbolize the journey we take with Christ in our everyday life.  You will choose a biblical route to walk. 

These routes are listed in the Christ Walk book.  You will choose one of the routes that appeals to you.   And you will dedicate yourself to this route over 40 days. 

You can earn miles to your route in many different ways.  You can walk, bike, swim, volunteer or pray in order to earn miles towards your route.  By the end of your discipline, you will have collected enough miles towards your chosen route and completed your journey. Christ Walk is about being intentional in our choices.  We look at everyday choices and ensure that God is a part of those everyday choices.

Some examples of the different routes you can walk include the following:  One route is the distance between Bethlehem and Jerusalem; signifying the journey between Christ's beginning and his end.  Another route is the "Via Delarosa, or the Way of Sorrows.  This route is the journey Jesus made as he walked through Jerusalem towards the cross.  There are several routes from Paul's missionary journeys.  There are many different routes to choose from.  You will choose a route that calls to you.

If you are unable to exercise, each 15 minute block of prayer, volunteerism, or outreach opportunity you take on will count as a "mile" towards your goal.   Christ Walk is designed for anyone at any level of fitness to participate.   In fact, I have had Christ Walk participants in wheelchairs and walkers that have found ways to earn miles during their Christ Walk journey. 

Your miles, however you walk, run, bike, swim, volunteer, or pray through are steps you can use on your walk with Christ.  I encourage you to challenge your kids, or grandkids to see if they can get more miles than you on this journey.  Get the whole family involved near and far.

The goal of Christ Walk is to build a strong temple so that we all can continue to do the work that Christ calls us to do in the world.  

The Christ Walk program comes with a book you will have the opportunity to purchase today. The book includes pages for you to journal about your journey and spiritual experience.  The book also includes a mileage tracker for you to write down the miles you complete each day towards your journey.  However you choose to collect your miles, you need to write them down.  This way, you will know how far you have come on your journey over the next 40 days.

Each chapter of the book corresponds with a day during the 40 day journey with reflections on different things we can do each day to make healthier choices.  Over the next 40 days you will meet weekly with your Christ Walk team, pray together and reflect together on the meditations in the books and discuss ways that you as a church can support each other towards healthier living.  Each chapter includes questions for discussions and thought.  Christ Walk groups meet to discuss the chapters and participate in different activities each week. Christ Walk can be done as an individual devotional, but the best journeys in life are those we take with our families and communities together. I really encourage you to participate with your church.

God does call us to change.  We are called in our baptismal covenant.  We are called when we confirm that we are members of the body of Christ during confirmation.  We are called daily to represent God's love here on earth.  This is not just a call of prayer, but also a call of action.  Being a Christian is all about everything we DO and every way we ACT and the CHOICES we make not only with one another, but also with ourselves.

When I was growing up, I used to say Christmas was my favorite holiday. My father, a priest, would always say that Good Friday and Easter were his. This always made me scratch my head as a child as I could not understand how Santa Clause and Christmas were not someone's favorite holiday.

As I have grown older, the gift of Easter grows each year and I have come to think of it as my favorite holiday.  As I have grown, I have learned that the gift of the resurrection is the greatest gift of them all.

Now, I get excited for Lent.  I use the Lenten period to prepare myself mind, body and spirit to receive the gift of God and strengthen my skills to use myself in God's calling in my life. Lent is a time that we can spring clean our lives mind, body and spirit so we are prepared for the springing of Easter. Lent is my time to rededicate myself to God's calling in my life.  Despite being broken, I still have a purpose in God's kingdom.  You do too.

Lent is not something to drag one's heels. Rather, look with anticipation the coming journey and the change God can make within you. At the End of this forty days, You WILL be a changed person.

In closing, I would like to share with you the Christ Walk prayer:

The Lord be with you:

I will try this day to walk the path set before me
I will try to walk a little longer, a little stronger
I will walk with my mind, body and spirit
I will walk with others, I will walk for others
I will walk when others cannot
I will be still and know that you are God on the days I cannot walk
I will walk with you Lord, on the path you set before me
When my own feet fail, I know you will help me get up and walk again
I will imagine what it would be like to walk in Christ's shoes
And try to live my life as though I was on Christ's path
I will pray that I walk the path I am called to and not turn down paths I am not
Today, Lord, on my journey I will Christ Walk
And I am thankful that you Christ Walk with me too.


Come, Christ Walk with me.

Tomorrow, I'll share with you what we did for our first Christ Walk evening.

Keep walking!  ~~Anna

Friday, February 12, 2016

Christ Walk: Top TEN Things You can Do for Lent This Year

Christ Walk: Top TEN Things You can Do for Lent This Year: It's that time of the year!  Lent is fast approaching.  Some of us are excited about this time that forces us to reflect on spiritual d...

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Christ Walk Retreat at ShrineMont


Here is a GREAT opportunity:  Come away with me for a weekend of health, fitness, spirituality and wellness.  I'll be conducting a Christ Walk Retreat at the Shrine Mont conference center "on the mountain" in Northern Virgina from 6-8 May.  I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE for you all to come meet me, so I can meet you, and share a weekend focused on deepening our faith and spirituality.

Here is a blurb on the weekend:
Christ Walk - a 40-day program about Christian living: mind,
body and spirit. Many Christians struggle with health and illness.
Many Christians deeply want to connect their spiritual beliefs to their
whole life, but need assistance. There is a mind, body and spiritual
connection to health. When we do not approach our health
holistically and God-centered, then no medicine in the world will get
us well. Christ Walk is a holistic program based on Christian teachings
that outlines a path for Christian Formation to incorporate mind, body
and spiritual activities into practice. This retreat will be lead by the
author, Anna Fitch Courie, and will incorporate mind, body and
spiritual practices into discussion, group activities, yoga, walking and
meditation. This retreat is all about incorporating your spirit into your
daily practice! Come spend three days focused on your health. Wear
comfortable clothes, come prepared to enjoy the beauty of the
mountain, and nourish your mind, body and soul. A copy of the
"Christ Walk: 40 Day Spiritual Fitness Program" is included in the cost
of the retreat weekend. Join us on this journey as we build healthy
Christians: body, mind AND soul. #christwalk

Rev. Pam Webb will be our chaplain for the weekend; we'll have a certified yoga instructor, and we'll divide into walking groups to enjoy the beauty of the mountain.  Of course, as with any Christ Walk event, we'll have facilitated sessions on different aspects of health and spirituality.  I've included the DRAFT agenda here for you to take a SNEAK PEAK at all we plan to offer.

Friday, 6 May

4:00 pm
Arrive, Get Settled,  Check-In
5:30 pm
7:00 pm
Welcome, Review Agenda, Ice Breaker, Break Into Teams, Share
8:30 pm
Closing Alibis/Hot Wash/Expectations
9:00 pm
Compline/Evening Prayer
9: 30 pm
Saturday, 7 May

8:00 am
9:00 am
Morning Prayer
9:30 am
10:30 am
What Does the Bible Say about Health?
11:30 am
Marking Change
12:30 pm
1:30 pm
Walking and Walking Styles
2:30 pm
Let's Talk Shoes
3:30 pm
How to Build a Healthy Body and Church
4:30 pm
Labyrinth Walking
5:30 pm
6:30 pm
Meals with Jesus
7:30 pm
Hot Wash
8:30 pm
Compline/Evening Prayer
9:00 pm
Sunday, 8 May

7:30 am
Group Walk
8:00 am
9:00 am
Holy Communion
10:00 am
How to Run  a Christ Walk Program at Your Church
11:00 am
Closing Comments/Book Signing/Final Hot Wash/Expectations
12:00 pm
Closing Prayer
12:30 pm
Lunch and Dismiss

Register for the weekend at:

I cannot wait to meet you all!  Come Christ Walk with me!