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Jenna Perrine

Sunday Reflections, June 26, 2016: Summer Experiment

By | Summer Experiment, Sunday Reflections | No Comments

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Last night was a beautiful end to this ministry season at the Practice. The entire experience felt like a gift in every way, from the opening liturgy right through to the benediction. The center of the night was Jason Feffer’s masterful guidance to help each of us create our Summer Experiment of Presence. I resonated so deeply with his correction of the commonly espoused “Jesus as gas station” model of understanding how to experience God in our daily lives. Under that model, we spend quiet time in prayer or meditating on Scripture to fill up and then “carry” Jesus into our relationships and circumstances each day. But, as Jason pointed out, there is no need to carry Jesus anywhere. He is already in every situation and the invitation is to become more attentive to his presence. And that invitation to attentiveness is precisely the idea behind the Summer Experiment.

So, Jason walked us through a time of reflection to get us started on how we might structure our time, thoughts, and practices this summer to become more aware of Jesus’ presence, particularly in those areas we tend not to notice his presence. Here are the six steps, adapted from Mark Scandrette’s Lenten Experiment framework, Jason used to help us develop our experiment:

  • Examine your life.

Where do you long to experience the presence of Jesus more fully in your life? Where do you hide from Jesus? What do you hold back from your relationship with him?

  • Explore patterns and root causes.

What keeps you from fully engaging the presence of Jesus in this area? What false beliefs do you have about God, which prevent you from opening this space to Jesus? What habits of distraction have you cultivated that keep you from engaging the presence of Jesus in this area and in the rest of your life?

  • Imagine the life that is possible.

Imagine living with Jesus in this area of your life every day. Can you picture a life in which Jesus is fully present in this space? Describe how your life would be different if Jesus were fully present in this area. Draw or paint a picture. Write a story, a poem, or a song.

  • Design your experiment.

What specific steps will you take to live more fully in the presence of Jesus? Practice a new spiritual discipline to address your false belief about God (breath prayer, prayer of the examen, silence, centering prayer, lectio divina, scripture memorization, spiritual direction). What habit of distraction will you refrain from during this experiment?

  • Commit to your plan and track it.

How will you remember and keep track of what you are committing to do?

  • Evaluate your experiment.

Check in regularly with your experiment. What are you learning about Jesus? What are you learning about yourself and the way you interact with others and the world?

Jason ended by listing out a few options we are offering this summer to check in on your experiment in the context of community. These include:

  • Join an in-person weekly check-in group at The Practice, which will be led by Jason and Erin Feffer on Sunday nights for four weeks beginning on July 10 from 6-7:30pm at Willow Creek Community Church in Barrington. (Details on the room we are meeting in will be shared via e-mail and the fb group closer to the start!)
  • Meet with one or two close friends to share your experiences with the experiment. We will post questions you can use on the Facebook page.

You can listen to Jason’s full teaching here.

And you can craft your own experiment at home using Jason’s handout which you can download and print by clicking here below:

Handout for crafting a Summer Experiment

After reminding ourselves that we cannot do this experiment without the guidance of the Holy Spirit or each other, we gathered back together, bringing our full selves and all the areas we long for Jesus’ presence to be known in our lives to the communion table.

We ended the night with a time of blessing I won’t soon forget. Our dear friends Rhianna Godfrey, Jenna Perrine, and John Perrine are transitioning off our staff and into slightly different roles at The Practice for the coming season. So, as a way of practicing and modeling blessing, we asked a few spiritual elders of The Practice, and individuals who have had a significant mentoring role in the lives of Rhianna, Jenna, and John—Gail Donahue, Joan Kelley, and Bill Donahue—to come forward and speak blessing over our friends. This was, of course, a beautiful gift to Rhianna, Jenna, and John, but it was a gift to each of us in the room too. We got to see how meaningful, encouraging, and holy it can be when we bless one another. May we do this in our lives more often! Oh, and we did give them each a deeply meaningful gift as well.

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We will gather as a community again on August 7 at 6:00 pm in the Chapel, but until then, we have a couple of great opportunities in addition to those related to the Summer Experiment, to get together and continue practicing:

Formation and Art

If you want to dig deeper into the spiritual practices or accompany your summer experiment with a weekly Formation and Art Workshop, join us on Thursday nights for a 4-week journey led by Lori Shoults and Sarah Carter. We will dive into the practices of journaling, 3-way listening, silence, solitude, and centering prayer. This workshop will begin on July 14. Details on the room will be shared via our community e-mail closer to the time. In the meantime, for more information, please send Lori an e-mail at lorishoults@att.net to hear more!

Practice BBQ

Join us on July 19 at 7 pm at Dan and Diane Niequist’s home for an epic community barbecue. Great food, connection, and perhaps a slip-n-slide! We’ll be sharing the sign-up information for this event soon.

Stay tuned for information about our Practice Retreat on August 28th!

May you grow in attentiveness to Christ’s presence in your daily life, allowing his love to pour out of you and into the world. And may our good God bless you and keep you until we gather again.

Blessings,

Kellye and The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections June 12, 2016: Blessing & Sending

By | Living the Liturgy, Sunday Reflections | One Comment

Last night at The Practice was such a wonderful end to our Living the Liturgy series., an exploration of the sacred rituals we practice each and every Sunday that shape our daily lives.

In this series we wanted to pull back the curtain and look at why practicing sacred rituals in our liturgy on Sundays is so formative for our daily lives. In the past three weeks we’ve been on quite a journey through scripture, confession & assurance, and the Eucharist – last night we ended our journey with an exploration of blessing and sending, the heart of our weekly passing of the peace and the benediction.

The night began on a more serious and somber note as our community took space in the liturgy to pray for Orlando as a community. The Book of Common Prayer has a heartbreaking and profound prayer that is to be used in times of crisis and heartache – so it was apt that we prayed that prayer along with a lament for gun violence and support for our LGBTQ brothers and sisters who have felt vulnerable and targeted since the event.

After holding up Orlando in this holy space, we continued through our opening liturgy with communal readings from scripture, immersing ourselves in the shared story of God’s people, the confession and assurance, and the passing of the peace.

Last night was also our final “Neuroscience with Jenna” experience – a look at the brain science behind how liturgy literally shapes our brain through ancient understanding of how our minds are formed. (I will say here that it has been such a blast sharing these insights with you all and seeing your enthusiasm for the connections between psychology and liturgy, thank you all for your encouragement!)

Before we turned to the message and practice for the evening, we updated our community on a last minute change of plan. As many of you know, our dear friend and faithful pastor to the Practice community, Kellye Fabian was scheduled to teach last night, but a last minute family emergency meant that our whole team agreed she needed to be present with her family rather than with all of us.

So to keep you all in the loop – Kellye will still record her beautiful message that she prepared for us this week and we will post it online and on the Practice Podcast as soon as it’s ready.

In the meantime – I got to step in and fill our teaching time with a little vision behind where the passing of the peace and the benediction come from, and how they shape us in our daily lives. Most importantly for last night’s practice – was the connection that in order to be a blessing to others, we must first be connected to how deeply blessed we ourselves are. You can listen to last night’s message here below, or through the Practice Podcast:

By exploring the passage of Jesus’ baptism – we got a picture of how even Jesus sought to be blessed and affirmed by the Father before beginning his ministry.

The most beautiful thing that stood out to me as I was preparing yesterday is this – that before God asks us to bless others – He first wants to bless us. That before God asks us to be sent out into the world to be a blessing – he first sent his son Jesus Christ to bless us. God is the great and grand initiator in our lives, and the passing of the peace and the benediction are ultimately deepened and will ultimately shape you to your core, only when you first grasp what it means to be blessed. The greatest motivator in this life is not fear, terror or pain – but love, joy and belonging in God.

Out of the message, John led us in a time of imaginative prayer (also included in the podcast!) in which we were invited to imagine ourselves in the place of Jesus as he received a blessing from God in the river Jordan that day. John masterfully and pastorally guided us into a space in which we were able to ask, what words of blessing do I desire to hear God speak to me?

After our time of prayer, we were invited to write down the words we desired to hear from God on a provided card and then approach a station around the room in which we could speak aloud our desire for blessing to a server and have them as a representative of the Church and of God, read a blessing over each of us, speaking truth to us about how God feels toward each of us.

There are no other words to say other than it truly was such a blessing to be blessed. To have the words of blessing spoken over us individually in a way that brought it home.

Curtis then led us to the table and we ended our service with communion with one another, partaking of the bread and cup that are at the center of why we gather.

The Kingdom Practices for this week are as follows:

  1. Keep those words of blessing that you wrote down with you, and allow God to speak them to you over and over again this week. Let the blessing be massaged deeper into your being, that you would serve out of your deep beloved-ness.
  2. Consider the ways in which you might be able to offer words of blessing to another this week – how can the blessing you’ve received overflow into the lives of others?
  3. Please remember that we are not meeting on June 19 (Father’s Day). Instead our resident liturgist and theologian John Perrine has created a Father’s Day home table liturgy that you can use at home with your family to meaningfully celebrate the day together.
  4. Finally – we have a lot of updates to share with you about our summer schedule, so please keep an eye on the e-mail and the blog for more information about shaping a summer experiment and other ways to engage this July.

Phew, what a night. What a gift to have friends like you all who are along for the journey.

May the peace of Christ be with you friends,

Blessings,
Jenna & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, June 5, 2016: The Eucharist

By | Living the Liturgy, Sunday Reflections | One Comment

We’ve had profound nights at The Practice, beautiful, deep, meaningful, and last night was several of those things. But most of all, last night was FUN. Of course, I spent a decent chunk of the evening over at the Practice Kids space, so that probably contributed to it.

The through-line of the night was the Good News that Jesus is there for us to cling to no matter our circumstances. We sang what is rapidly becoming my favorite Spiritual about how we want Jesus to walk with us through our sorrows, our trials, our journeys. We heard Scripture read about a God who lifts us up and doesn’t let our enemies gloat over us, and a Messiah who heals even the dead. We put that faith radically into action by praying a blessing not just for our friends, but for our enemies.

And then we got ministered to. It’s always a pleasure to have the mellifluous Southern Pentecostal tones of Jonathan Martin with us, but to have Nichole Nordeman too was a true joy. It was, of course, a privilege to have such a wonderfully gifted musician in the Chapel with us last night, but her lyrics punched just as hard as her voice. She brought to life in powerful ways the truth of Jonathan’s message, that in the darkest times and stormiest seas Jesus is a raft we can cling to. What a wonderful truth.

Jonathan continued our deep-dive into the elements of the weekly liturgy by bringing the Eucharist to life. The Table is the place that each week we get reminded that no matter what else is going on in our lives, Jesus died for us and offers us life. The Bread and the Cup are tangible proof that we haven’t been forgotten or forsaken. We can hold on for one more week. Or, more accurately, Jesus will continue to hold on to us just as he promised. Take a listen to the podcast here:

And then, of course, the fun continued when we were treated to a fantastic after-party. We gathered to celebrate the publication of Jonathan’s book How to Survive a Shipwreck with cupcakes, cheese, cookies, and soda bottles with colorful straws. The room was so full of life and warmth, and I for one hope that celebrations like that become deeply embedded in The Practice’s DNA.

And, let’s be honest, I want Rhianna and Lori to plan my next party!

Grace and Peace to you all this week, friends.

Curtis & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, May 22, 2016: Confession & Assurance

By | Living the Liturgy, Sunday Messages, The Practice Podcast | 4 Comments

 

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Last night marked the second week of our Living the Liturgy series a four-week exploration of the sacred rituals we practice each and every Sunday that shape our daily lives. Every Sunday at The Practice, and in churches all around the world and across history, Christians have worshipped God through a series of sacred rituals more commonly referred to as a liturgy – an order of worship that includes key elements such as the communal reading of scripture, a confession and assurance, the passing of the peace, communion, and a benediction.

In this series we want to pull back the curtain and look at why practicing these sacred rituals on Sundays is so formative for our daily lives. Last week, Curtis helped us understand the importance of why we read scripture passages out loud from the Bible each week– how in the hearing and in the sharing of God’s great story, we are shaped into God’s people who have a shared language and history. And last night, John Perrine led us into a deeper exploration of Confession & Assurance.

Our opening liturgy began with some of my favorite words that center my heart and prepare me for worship,

We come as those hungry…
hungry for God’s word.
We come as those thirsty…
thirsty for God’s spirit.
We come as those broken…
seeking the healing that God provides.
We come as those in need…
needing reminders of God’s love.
We come as those longing…
longing for God’s kingdom to come.

Our opening liturgy also included a double reading of Psalm 8, one version which was rewritten by Deirdre JVR, and a beautiful time of prayer for the world, written for our gathering by the brilliant Sam Ogles.

It was then my joy and privilege to welcome everyone to the evening and give everyone another installment of what we’ve decided to call “Brain Science with Jenna” – a brief insight each week into why liturgy works with our brains to shape us into Christ likeness. This week we looked at the Enactment Benefit – most simply summarized by Confucius in 500 BC:

I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.

When we participate and learn by doing, or by assigning a gesture or posture to information, it is better encoded into our memory and easier to recall than information simply learned by listening or watching. I love how participatory our liturgies are, placing you in a position of doing that enacts the liturgy to help you learn deeper! (ok nerd moment over).

John then stepped forward to share his message on confession and assurance with the room.

You can listen to John’s message and the practice time from the evening through our Practice Podcast or here below:

Perhaps my favorite part of John’s message was his weaving of confession and assurance into the picture of the woman caught in adultery in John 8. Like the pharisees, are you a person that throws stones, disconnected from the weight of your own sin or like the woman caught, are you a person who has become buried under the stones of others, or stones you yourself have thrown?

Are you disconnected from the weight of your own sin in need of a deeper confession? Or are you disconnected from the depth of your forgiveness and in need of a deeper assurance?

As John drew attention to the fact that it was Jesus himself who alone could have thrown the only stone in that narrative – but who instead chose to say, “Neither do I condemn you, now go and sin no more” – it struck me that this is exactly what Christ says to each of us every day of every week. Against God and God alone have I sinned, and from God and God alone can we receive the forgiveness and righteousness that is his alone to give.

Our time of practice was a deepening experience of confession and assurance, to let everyone in the room connect both to the weight of their sin and repentance, and then be ushered into the deep beauty of assurance.

During confession, Sharon sang the incredible song “We confess” by Glenn Packiam. Everyone in the room was invited to cover their face and hold in a closed fist a stone they had received as they arrived, as a symbol of their confession of guilt. Each time we sang “have mercy” the room was instructed to squeeze the rock tighter, and each time we left space for confession, the room was instructed to lean into the discomfort of holding the rock outstretched, deepening the weight of repentance for us all.

For our assurance, as Sharon sang the beautiful words of Christ, “As far as the East is from the West…” from Glenn’s song, we invited each person in the room who wanted to participate to come forward to a server, their stone held in an outstretched hand, and their other hand covering their face, a posture of repentance. Then, each server gently took the stone from their outstretched hand, gently guided the hand covering their face down so that both hands were now open and outstretched, and finally they placed a hand on their head and reminded them, “In the name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.”

I reminded everyone that our servers had no special ability to forgive sins, rather they were just here as representatives of the church to remind and symbolize to each of us what is already true – we are forgiven. It was a privilege to say this blessing over people as they came forward, and as I took stones from people, moved their hands away from their faces and prayed the blessing, I saw many tears – both of sorrow and then joy. It was profound and beautiful.

We ended our time together as we always do, with communion – the sign and symbol of God’s great love for us. It was a night of deep repentance and assurance of God’s love and forgiveness.

Our Kingdom Practices this week are simple:

  1. Keep your liturgy from Sunday and use the words of confession and assurance, to make space in your week to lean into what you know you need most. Perhaps you are in need of a deeper confession, you’ve become complacent and disconnected from your need of Christ – or perhaps you are in need of a deeper assurance, you’ve wallowed in shame long enough and need to be reminded you are forgiven.
  2. We recommend you listen to Glenn’s song – ‘We confess.’ It is a beautiful song that transports you into a sacred place of confession and assurance no matter where you are.
  3. Next week, we are not meeting in the chapel – but we have provided a Memorial Day Weekend Picnic Liturgy you can use at your weekend picnics and BBQs, find out more and print the liturgy HERE.

Thank you for being on the journey with us friends, we’ll see you back in the Chapel on June 5 with Jonathan Martin and Nichole Nordeman to talk about Eucharist,

Grace and Peace,

Jenna & The Practice Team

 

Memorial Day Picnic Peace Liturgy

By | Living the Liturgy | No Comments

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Hey friends,

As you all have heard The Practice will not be meeting in the Chapel on May 29 over Memorial Day weekend. Our next gathering together will be on Sunday June 5 with Jonathan Martin and Nichole Nordeman to explore the Eucharist together as part of our Living the Liturgy series. Until then, we wanted to create a ‘picnic liturgy’ that you and your friends and family could use over Memorial Day weekend to turn a BBQ or a meal into a sacred space focused on peace for the world.

You can download and print at home the pdf. by clicking below:

Download the Memorial Day Picnic Peace Liturgy

(Printing instructions are simple, letter sized paper, one sided!)

We hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, wherever you are.

Grace and peace,
The Practice Team

Picnic Peace Liturgy

Sunday Reflections, May 15, 2016: Engaging Scripture

By | Living the Liturgy | No Comments

It was a blustery Sunday in May, as only our unexpected Chicago weather could bring, that found the Practice starting our new series, “Living the Liturgy.” However, we still had much to celebrate as this Sunday was Pentecost, the historic “birthday” of the Church where the Spirit was given to the first disciples. Our hope was to join with the church all around the world in a liturgy that reflected this celebration.

The worship and readings tried to walk what we were talking, as we followed the Pentecost readings of the Lectionary interspersed with powerful refrains of worship. Perhaps my favorite moment was the assurance, where Sarah sang the words of Roman 8 promising our adoption through the Spirit while the whole room responded, “Venti Sancte Spiritus” (Come Holy Spirit). It was beautiful, haunting, as if the room was joining with the voices of the Church around the world. I think what perhaps excites me most about this series, is the unique chance to draw our attention to those very “sacred rituals” called liturgy that church has been doing over and over again through space and time.

Though I am of course biased (as her husband), Jenna’s introduction to the series was simply spectacular. In the briefest of time, Jenna invited us in to what the brain teaches us about why liturgy matters. The more we repeat actions, the deeper those actions go in our brains and more creative capacity we have to engage and encounter God.

The real journey of the night however, began when Curtis turned our attention to what “Living the Liturgy” means for engaging Scripture. Scripture gives us a shared story and a shared language by which we are formed in the deepest parts of our being. Sharing and hearing these stories, such as Israel being retold the story of the Exodus over and over again, helps to shape the kind of people we become.

What better way to practice being shaped by a shared story than the practice of Lectio Divina, (or in this case, Oratio Divina!) an intentional divine listening to scripture that Kellye led us in. As Kellye reminded us, this practice of slowly and intentionally listening to a passage (for a word,  its meaning, and for its application in our lives), is one that we can take into our lives; reading with families, listening with friends, or even more intentionally engaging the lectionary that’s being read on Sunday.

Hearing the word then led to receiving the Eucharist, after which we concluded with worship, a doxology and a closing benediction. A few thoughts from kingdom practices for this week:

  • Keep reading and listening to the word. It is only in our setting aside time to engage Scripture that we can be shaped by the shared story and language of God’s people.
  • One way to do this is to follow the lectionary; Aaron mentioned an app call “iMissal” he uses to pull up the lectionary every morning. Another great website that contains the lectionary readings is HERE. Whatever way you can get into the Scriptures, we’re excited to engage them with you.
  • Practice Kids was a wonderful success as we have begun the experiment of caring for your children during the Practice, an experiment we’ll be continuing next Sunday May 22nd when we meet. We’d love to see you, your children, and any friends with children who might be interested in joining us!
  • Finally, the next couple of weeks have lots of exciting Sundays ahead. Next week (May 22nd), Jenna and I will be engaging Confession and Assurance. The following week, May 29th, we’ll be off for memorial day though we’ll be sharing with you a peace picnic liturgy for any interested, while June 5th will have Jonathan Martin and Nichole Nordeman engaging Eucharist, and June 12th will conclude our series with Kellye engaging Blessing through passing the peace and benediction. We can’t wait for you to join us on this journey!

Wherever you find yourself, may you find ways to live the liturgy this week!
Grace and Peace,
John and the Practice Team

Living the Liturgy

By | Living the Liturgy | One Comment

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“You know… you are what you eat,” a friend recently remarked to me as I took yet another bite into my cheeseburger. Now on the one hand of course, this preferred idiom of my health conscious companion was quite silly. I am (hopefully) very clearly not a cheeseburger, nor does one especially gluttonous meal a “cheeseburger” make. But, as I tried to shake my friend’s phrase out of my mind to enjoy my healthy dose of fries, I started to ponder that he actually had a point. You see, one cheeseburger certainly won’t change you. But eating one every day probably will (as that classic documentary “Supersize Me” terrifyingly demonstrated). With this observation, the reverse of course is also true. An apple a day might just keep the doctor away. Now I’m certainly not stumbling into any new truth here. In fact it was the ancient Christian church that began to observe that while one interesting conversation might stoke your curiosity, it was the weekly and daily actions of our worship that actually shape who we are. For this reason, the church began to intentionally ask, “How should our worship reflect the ways we are being invited to be shaped by God?”

Now I will be the first to admit, growing up taking part in a “liturgy” was about the farthest thing from a “good time” that I could have possibly imagined. I’m certain that some, if not all of us have had a few experiences in the name of “liturgy” that, to follow my earlier analogy with my friend, I may have responded, “if this is eating healthy, I’d rather risk it with the cheeseburger.” However, to dismiss liturgy on behalf of a rather dusty experience is to throw the “baby” of liturgy out with the “bath water” of high-nosed religion. Formation takes place, whether we like it or not, through the slow steady stream of repetitive motions, slowly smoothing away the rough edges of our jagged stone hearts. We deeply need the same motions, again and again and again, to help shape us into the very image of Christ, the people of God. However, where most have gotten lost in the church woods is that we’ve never been given the chance to explore, “Why is it that the church chooses to worship the way that it worships and how is that supposed to matter for my every day life?”

For this reason, we’re thrilled that over the next six weeks, we’ll be going on a journey together to explore what “Living the Liturgy” might actually look like.

On June 15th, Curtis Miller will be taking us deep into the practice of reading Scripture communally, asking how the shared word matters for our own weekly time in the word.

On June 22nd, Jenna and I will explore the  confession and assurance that we practice each week, and how the full story of repentance can become a necessary journey to daily encounter God’s grace.

On June 5th, the one and only Jonathan Martin will be returning with Nicole Nordeman to explore with us the formative practice of weekly Eucharist as the launching point into our own daily tables.

Finally on June 12th, Kellye Fabian will talk about our deep need for blessing, and how the passing of the peace and the benediction we practice each week both speak to and send us out with the very blessing of Christ.

Perhaps what has been most exciting to us about this upcoming series is it invites any and all who are new to liturgy or are perhaps returning to liturgy again, to explore with us why it is that we worship the way that we do, and how that worship shapes our day to day lives. We can’t wait to see where this time takes us, what questions come up and how we might be launched from Sunday evening into “Living the Liturgy” in our lives.

Join us at 6pm on Sunday May 8, as we dive into the sacred rituals that shape our daily lives,

Blessings,

John Perrine & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, May 1, 2016: Stories of Resurrection in Community

By | Stories of Resurrection | No Comments

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Last night was one of my favorite kind of nights at The Practice. Over the past four weeks we’ve had the privilege to hear Stories of Resurrection from some incredible guests, testifying to the power of Christ’s Resurrection in Race, Religion and Iraq, but last night we got to bring the conversation closer to home, sharing stories of resurrection with one another within our very own community from our community.

I was talking with some friends after The Practice last night and we all agreed on one thing, these nights of sharing and listening with one another are always a little anxiety inducing – and sometimes it feels like it would be easier to sit them out, but every single time I participate in them, I have a deep and profound time of connection with real people in our community who are the hands and feet of Christ to me. I’m always so grateful to have been a part of it and at the end of each of these nights I always find myself saying – that was my favorite.

We began our night with a shorter opening liturgy, reading scripture together, a time of confession and assurance and a passing of the peace. Before our time of practice began, the wonderful Kellye Fabian got up to share with us all her heart and vision for this listening night.

One of the things I love most about Kellye is her thirst to know Why? Why are we doing this? I think that most people have found themselves asking the very same question about these listening opportunities and have craved a deeper and more compelling answer for why we do this and why others should take part. (You can listen to Kellye’s invitation here below or through the Practice Podcast.)

After Kellye invited us into the why, Lori Shouts got up to explain to us the how. Each time we have practiced listening and sharing of any kind at The Practice, we make it a point to follow the following important listening guidelines –

 

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These listening guidelines provide a safe container in which we are able to tend to Christ’s presence among one another without the pressure of fixing, advising or evaluating one another. After reviewing these guidelines we spent time journalling through the 3 questions that have shaped and guided our entire journey of Resurrection,

In what ways have you seen resurrection take place in your life and in the world?

In what ways are you longing to see more resurrection take place in your life and in the world?

In what ways could God be inviting you to join in his work of resurrection in your life and in the world?

After getting our thoughts down on paper, we broke into groups of 3 to begin our 3 way listening process. The format looked like this:

  1. Each group of 3 chose who would share first
  2. Then we held one minute of silence to prepare our hearts for sharing and listening
  3. One member then shared their answers to those questions uninterrupted for 5 minutes whilst the other two people simply listened (no talking/interrupting/question asking)
  4. When the five minutes were up, we held one more minute of silence to reflect on what we’d shared/heard
  5. Then each group had 2 minutes in which the two listeners were able to either affirm the person who had shared or ask a question that had come to mind for them as they were listening.

After this process was complete, we repeated it for each person until everyone had had a chance to listen and share. Once we were all finished we turned our chairs back to the center of the room and Kellye invited us all to share how the experience went for us, here is just some of the feedback we heard.

“The format of this allowed me to share things, deep important things, I don’t think I ever would have shared in church otherwise. I’m thankful for this opportunity.”

“It felt so good to be listened to.” 

“There was a common theme in our group between everyone who shared, and I don’t think that was a coincidence.”

“At first, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to share or listen for 5 whole minutes, but after trying this I wish we had even more time. The things we were able to share and explore with one another were so engaging.” 

“I was feeling anxious, because I came by myself and ended up in a group with two people I’d never met before. But after having listened to and shared with one another, it felt so good to listen to their stories and have my story shared. I feel like I have just gained two new friends.”

After this time of debriefing, we came back to the center of it all, the table, for Eucharist. John led us in our time of communion and after taking the bread and the cup we ended our time of worship with the doxology, praising God for all he has done for us.

We closed with a few important announcements that we will continue to share deeper and more exciting information about over the next two weeks, but in the meantime, keep the following thoughts in mind:

  1. We are NOT meeting next week, May 8, 2016
  2. Our next series Living the Liturgy will begin on May 15, 2016 – and we cannot wait to dive into the historic liturgical practices of the church and how they spill into the rest of your week with you all! An update is coming soon, but in the meantime – check out the dates on our calendar to stay in the loop!
  3. Curtis Miller has been working hard to provide an opportunity for more parents to attend The Practice by exploring ways to care for children during the gathering. During our Living the Liturgy series, we are excited to share that we will be experimenting with “Practice Kids” for kids up to 5th grade. More information coming soon!

Thank you all, as always, for being on the journey with us, it is a gift to share with you and to hear your stories of resurrection.

Blessings,

Jenna & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, April 24, 2016: Stories of Resurrection in Iraq

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Last night it was The Practice’s great privilege to welcome our courageous friend Jeremy Courtney, founder of The Preemptive Love Coalition, to share his story of resurrection in Iraq as part of our journey this Eastertide to have eyes to see the repercussions of Christ’s resurrection all around us in our lives and in the world.

Our opening song was woven throughout the night and was a perfect anthem of hope in light of Jeremy’s message:

Father of each citizen
Lover of each immigrant
God of everyone who has ever been an alien You’re Creator of us all
Animator of us all

Oh—You love your children, Love your children
Every daughter, every son
Oh—You love your children, All your children
Help us see You in each one

 

Through these words I was reminded that God is the father of every immigrant, alien and citizen in the world and it is so important to remember each life as an opportunity to glimpse the image of God here on earth.

After reading scriptures from the lectionary, praying for the world and passing the peace of Christ to one another, Jeremy stepped forward to share his story of resurrection. Aaron shared in his introduction that typically guest speakers who speak regularly on a global scale tend to have a set message that they share each time they are invited to speak – it was so special to hear that Jeremy had written a new message for our community in light of our series on resurrection. Jeremy was wrestling with the same framework that we have been working with over the past few weeks and had crafted a unique and vulnerable story of resurrection after reflecting on his life over the past few years. You can listen to Jeremy’s message through the Practice Podcast or here below:

Jeremy’s story was deeply beautiful and unsettling to me. It was so difficult to open my heart and engage in the overwhelming work of peacemaking that Jeremy and his family have been practicing in the middle east. Jeremy was raw and honest about the desert experiences they have had as they have sought out new life in such a war torn land. His family is no stranger to betrayal, paranoia, and longing. It is difficult, soulful work that has demanded a new perspective on life itself that I found so compelling. At one point Jeremy shared, “There’s a way to be so connected to life that we actually get in the way of resurrection.” It became apparent to me that Jeremy knew so much about resurrection because he has been so acquainted with sorrows, grief and death. It is only in the midst of very real danger, oppression and persecution, that a deep appreciation for life, and even more beautiful, life after death has been born.

The most compelling part of the evening for me came during our practice time, Jeremy shared three impactful photographs that modeled how God has given him eyes to see and have gratitude in the midst of conflict. The first image was painfully harrowing, a fragment of a skull that he and his partners came across as part of a mass grave – a true symbol of the literal death and war that marks the people of Iraq. The second image was of that same mass grave, but this time, bright yellow flowers were poking through, blooming into an image of new life out of the ashes of death – a symbol of hope. Finally, Jeremy showed an image of a field overflowing with these yellow flowers, how the entire space has been overcome by this new life. Jeremy explained that from these flowers, several Iraqi refugee women have partnered with his wife Jessica to create a livelihood through making beautiful organic soaps. In the face of pain, death and evil, life his spring forth in an unexpected way to extend an opportunity for business, livelihood and entrepreneurship amongst the widows, sisters and mothers torn asunder by middle eastern crisis.

It was a beautiful testimony of resurrection. Soap making in the midst of death is such a tactile expression of resurrection. (It is also my deep hope that every single one of you would check out the marvelous Sisterhood Soap endeavor, an opportunity of The Preemptive Love Coalition to give life back to refugees). A powerful question to consider is how can you be a soap maker in your own life? How can you partner in God’s work of resurrection using the resources God has put in front of you?

During our practice time we prayed to see gratitude, longing, and joining in with resurrection in our lives and in Iraq.

We then came to the table and took the most tangible step of resurrection available to us, by receiving the body and cup of Christ that bears witness to resurrection available to us that we take out into the world.

Our Kingdom Practices this week are simple:

  1. Consider becoming a soap sponsor with Preemptive Love Coalition. This is a tactile way to give the gift of new life and opportunity to refugees in Iraq, a space in which resurrection is so sorely needed.
  2. Consider the ways in which you can become a ‘soap maker’ in your own life. How can you join with God’s work of resurrection in your day to day life?

I hope you take Jeremy’s story with you into your life this week. I hope it haunts you, compels you, inspires you, and stretches you. We are all God’s children and we belong to each other – it is so easy to feel disconnected from our middle eastern brothers and sisters, but they need us, and I am convinced we need them to remind us of true resurrection.

Grace and Peace,

Jenna & The Practice Team

Sunday Reflections, April 17, 2016: Stories of Resurrection in Religion

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Resurrection Slider1

Springtime arrived in Chicagoland this past weekend, and even a little bit of summertime was peeking its head around the corner as we gathered this past Sunday night to hear Sarah Bessey speak on Resurrection in Religion. It was as if the deadness of winter was being shed for the new life of warm days and bright sun. A sense of expectancy and hope seemed to be in the air as we began our liturgy last night. After starting with a magnificent reading from the lectionary reading from Revelation, there seemed a recognition in the room that worship was taking place. Different refrains each echoed the same thought: for all our wrestling with grief this past season of lent, in view of Eastertide there is much to praise.

The liturgy continued into a confession and assurance–an invitation to reflect on the words of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” After Jenna read the passage, she asked, “What word or phrase is standing out to you this evening?” For me, the words that stood out were fear and comfort. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.” Those darkest valleys have been looming large, and I was in need of those gentle words.
Before passing the peace with one other,  we were invited in to the difficult practice of praying for our enemies. There was something so moving about being assured the provision and presence of God in Psalm 23, only to be called to respond by praying for those we’d prefer to scorn, blessing those who we’d rather curse. I’m embarrassed to admit faces easily came to mind for me, people both near and far, though as we prayed for those people, I felt their burden lift. Life is more lightly lived when we’re praying for our enemies.

All of this, of course, was rich preparation for a time of teaching and practice on stories of resurrection in religion. There truly could not be a more helpful voice to guide us into that exploration than Sarah Bessey’s. She wove together a complex tale of youthful faith, persistent doubts, tragic grief, and resurrected hope. You can listen to her message through The Practice Podcast or here below.

What stood out to me most about Sarah’s story was her peace in the midst of continuing questions. She modeled to us what it looks like to hold together all the beauty and brokenness. She told us about kind voices in the midst of lonely churches, and moments of celebration, watching her children dance in a charismatic church even as she needs the rhythms of contemplative liturgies.

We followed Sarah’s words with time to reflect on our stories of resurrection through three movements:

  1. Eyes to see gratitude for the resurrection around us.
  2. Eyes to see longing where resurrection has not yet occurred.
  3. Eyes to see the spaces and places in our lives where we are being invited to join with God’s resurrection.

Friends, as I conclude this reflection, I’m struck by Sarah’s story of unknown woman who approached her during her season of great sadness and said to her these beautiful words: “God has not forgotten you.”  I wonder if some of us, as we reflect on our stories with religion, need to hear those words today. Yet even more, I wonder if there are some of us who need to offer that word to someone we know. For resurrection to take place in religion, it requires faithful, Christ-loving women and men to join with God’s resurrection by offering new life to dead places. Is there someone you know who needs to hear a word of comfort from God this week in their own story of religion?

May we together be a community of believers with eyes to see the good news of resurrection taking place all around us, even as we extend that resurrection to others.

Grace and peace,
John and the Practice team