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Jason Feffer

12.9.18 The Mystery of Advent

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What a wonderful night! Sam guided us with an invitation to open our hearts to the mysteries of Advent. “Great is the mystery of Advent, Christ has come, Christ is with us, and Christ will come again.” The thread holding these three Advents together is the gift of God’s presence. How might we slow down this week to see Jesus in those we encounter each day?

Sam then led the practice of Visio Divina. Visio Divina helps us to listen to God as we see. If you couldn’t be with us, please make some time this week to listen and engage this practice. You can find the image we used last night here.

Kingdom Practices
As we walk through Advent this year, let’s continue to practice the breath prayer we engaged last week, “Immanuel, I wait for you.” And as we grow in deeper awareness of the Lord’s presence with us, how are we being invited to respond to God’s presence in the people we meet every day?

12.2.18 Advent Waiting

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It was good to be back with you in community Sunday night and lean into the first week of Advent. Our night began with a brief update and prayer. This has been a challenging season for the community of Willow Creek as some hard decisions have been made about the 2019 budget. While we received the good news that The Practice will be funded without any cuts for 2019, many received the painful news that their jobs have been eliminated. We began our evening holding them in the loving presence of God. As you head into this season, would you continue to hold our community in prayer?

In our liturgy and teaching, we reflected on the invitation of Advent to wait in hopeful expectation for the coming of Christ. In the waiting we learn to slow down, to live with intention. Benedictine sister Joan Chittister says in Advent “we wait for what is beyond the obvious… to see what is behind the apparent. Advent makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored.”

The gift of Advent is that God is Immanuel. No matter how we experience the longing for God’s presence in this season, the Lord truly is “God with us.” We expressed our desire in the spiritual practice of breath prayer. Together we prayed the prayer, “Immanuel, I wait for you.”

Kingdom Practices
During the season Advent this year, will you join us in the practice of this breath prayer “Immanuel, I wait for you?” Will you set aside five to ten minutes each day to pray this breath prayer slowly and reflectively? As we pray, let’s focus our attention on God’s loving presence. Then as we go about our day, we’ll repeat the prayer a handful of times as it comes to mind. When we become aware of our longings for God’s presence, let’s pray, “Immanuel, I wait for you,” as a way of grounding ourselves in God’s presence during this holy season.

11.18.18 Listening to God in Rest

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It was so great to have Keri Wyatt Kent guide us with an invitation into a simple Sabbath rhythm. Keri did a fantastic job outlining the scriptural invitation of Sabbath as a gift to be opened each week. The question I keep coming back to is whether we can ever “experience the unconditional love of God if we don’t stop striving long enough to receive it.”

She then asked two important questions to guide our Sabbath practice. “What is one thing you wish you had more time for, and what is something you wish to be free from?” If you couldn’t be with us last night, please make some time to listen.

Kingdom Practices
Over the course of these next two weeks, can we choose one day each week for a simple Sabbath practice? Keri’s invitation is so wise. Let’s not start with a burdensome heroic Sabbath practice involving fifteen things from which we abstain or engage.

Let’s simply rest from one thing. What do you long to be free from? Is it some chore or task, maybe a responsibility, your phone, or maybe it is worry or fear? And let’s intentionally spend time doing one thing. What do you wish you had more time for? Is it taking a walk, reading, a meal with friends or family, or maybe even taking a nap.

11.11.18 Listening to God in Rest

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What a gift it was to have Casey Tygrett with us Sunday night! Casey guided us beautifully through a perspective on Sabbath that I had never experienced before. “We don’t practice Sabbath because we need a break;” Casey said, “we practice Sabbath because we are free.” Sabbath is an invitation to remember the freedom into which we have been delivered.

This is such a fresh way of thinking about Sabbath. So often we are resistant to this practice. Sabbath is hard. It is easy to miss the reality on the other side of this costly practice, but “what would it look like to practice Sabbath not because we have to but because we are free?”

We then examined a memory of freedom on the Lord’s presence. When have we experienced a deep sense of freedom, and where do we find the presence of the Spirit in the midst of our freedom?

If you missed Sunday night, would you make some time to listen and engage our practice this week?

Kingdom Practices
This week, if God was working in a memory, spend some more time with it, share your memory of freedom with someone you trust. And make some time to take a small step toward a rhythm of Sabbath. We will never find space for Sabbath; we can only make space for Sabbath. This week, let’s make time to take a small step toward practicing Sabbath.

A Prayer Examen

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Introduction
Our last two Practice gatherings have focused on practices of prayer, specifically the practices
Of the Examen and Listening Prayer. Regularly engaging spiritual practices of prayer is absolutely essential for anyone committed to following Jesus.

A spiritual practice is any intentional activity that cultivates deeper communion with God’s
presence in our everyday lives. Spiritual practices may help us grow in awareness of God’s loving presence. They may help us develop ears to better hear God’s voice or help us to surrender obstacles to deeper communion with God.

Dallas Willard wrote, “In the progress of God’s redemptive work, communication advances into communion, and communion into union.” As we cultivate a life of prayer we grow into deeper communion with the Lord so we might join in more fully in God’s redemptive work in the world. The Examen, listening prayer, silence, breath prayer, and intercession are just a few examples of spiritual practices of prayer. In this particular Examen, we will examine our spiritual practices of scripture. Let’s hold our practices in God’s presence and listen for what the Holy Spirit might reveal to us this week.

You can download and print a copy of this examen here.

Step 1: Acknowledging God’s presence
Settle into a comfortable space without distractions. Take a deep breath. Wherever you are in
this moment, you are in God’s loving presence. Take another deep breath. Remember that God
is closer than the air you breathe.

For the next few moments, invite God to speak. Hold your hands open as a sign of your willingness to receive from God. Express your desire to listen. You may use your own words or echo the words of Samuel, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”

Step 2: Review your spiritual practices of prayer in gratitude
Now, remaining in God’s loving presence, consider the specific practices of prayer you have engaged in this season. Name these experiences, you may even choose to write them down.
How have you experienced communion with God in prayer during this season?

Take a moment now to thank God for these experiences. You may write a prayer of gratitude in the space below.

Step 3: Examine your spiritual practices of prayer with God
Consider the spiritual practices of prayer you identified a moment ago. Take a moment to examine your experiences with the following questions. Listen for anything the Holy Spirit may be calling to your attention.

How have you experienced God drawing you into His life of love through prayer?

How have spiritual practices of prayer fallen short, felt dry, or
failed to invite you in God’s life of love?

Step 4: Respond
Is there a particular experience that stands out from your examination? Was there a strong emotion, positive or negative, that stands out? Is there one experience you feel the Holy Spirit
is drawing you toward, one you are being invited to hold a little longer in God’s loving presence?

Use this time to respond to God. Is there anything you want to say to God about this experience, anything you would like to ask? Speak to God, and listen for God’s response.

Step 5: Looking forward
In our final movement, let’s turn our attention forward. As you consider spiritual practices of prayer in the future, what emotions arise? Do you sense an invitation from God? Close your
time in prayer by holding your future practices in God’s loving presence.

10.28.18 Listening to God in Prayer

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Last night we continued exploring practices of listening to God in prayer. We see in scripture that God speaks, and the normative experience of those who follow God is they will hear the Lord. There are many ways of listening to God in prayer, and last night we examined two.

We acknowledged that we often treat prayer as a practice we initiate. Whether we have a need or it is a set aside time of prayer, we begin the conversation with God. But what if sometimes God initiates prayer? What if in the middle of our day God is speaking, waiting for us to listen?

We also looked at the questions that arise in our lives: the simple questions, the foundational questions of our souls, and every question in between. We explored ways of bringing all these questions to the Lord and listening for a response.

When we learn to listen, our intimacy with God deepens. Dallas Willard writes, “In the progress of God’s redemptive work, communication advances into communion, and communion into union. When the progression is complete we can truly say, ‘It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me’ (Gal 2:20).”

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to listen. We might consider how we can more intentionally listen during our everyday lives, and we might return to the questions stirring within us, asking God and listening for the Lord’s response.

10.21.18 Listening to God in Prayer: The Examen

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What a joy it was to have Father Michael with us last night! Father Michael managed to both introduce the Examen to those of us unfamiliar with it, and take those who were familiar more deeply into its practice. A holy habit of practicing the Examen, Father Michael explained, seeks to change our consciousness so that we become more aware that we are always in the presence of God.

After an introduction, Father Michael led us into a particular Examen, one that helps us to examine a virtue God is inviting us to develop or some sin with which we are struggling. We can form our prayer around the examination of this vice or virtue in a way that invites God into our work, so that our growth is formational, flowing through God’s work in our everyday life.

Kingdom Practices
As we set aside time to pray this week, will you consider praying the Examen God invited you to pray last night? The steps of The Examen are:

Step 1: Become aware of and rest in the loving presence of God
Step 2: Review the day in gratitude
Step 3: Review the day in God’s presence, giving attention to the
virtue or vice God is inviting you to examine
Step 4: Chose one moment of the day to pray from
Step 5: Look forward to the day to come

You may also find it helpful to explore the Examen version of A New Liturgy. It includes some teaching from Father Michael and a guided Examen.

A Scripture Examen

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Introduction
Our last two Practice gatherings have focused on practices of scripture, specifically the practices
of sacred questions and Lectio Divina. Reading scripture as a spiritual practice is essential for anyone committed to following Jesus. The Bible is more than a story. It is more than a set of commands or principles by which to live. It is an invitation to an interactive relationship. It is God’s inspired word, which means God is present with us as we read.

A spiritual practice is any intentional activity that cultivates deeper communion with God’s presence
in our everyday lives. Spiritual practices may help us grow in awareness of God’s loving presence.
They may help us develop ears to better hear God’s voice or help us to surrender obstacles to deeper communion with God.

Engaging scripture as a spiritual practice cultivates deeper communion with God through the Bible. Memorizing or meditating on scripture, praying scripture, Lectio Divina, or sacred questions are a few examples. In this Examen, we will examine our spiritual practices of scripture. Let’s hold our practices
in God’s presence and listen for what the Holy Spirit might reveal to us this week.

You can download and print a copy of this Examen here.

Step 1: Acknowledging God’s presence
Settle into a comfortable space without distractions. Take a deep breath. Wherever you are in
this moment, you are in God’s loving presence. Take another deep breath. Remember that God
is closer than the air you breathe.

For the next few moments, invite God to speak. Hold your hands open as a sign of your willingness to receive from God. Express your desire to listen. You may use your own words or echo the words of Samuel, “Speak, Lord. Your servant is listening.”

Step 2: Review your spiritual practices of scripture in gratitude
Now, remaining in God’s loving presence, consider how you have engaged scripture as a spiritual practice. In this season, what spiritual practices involving scripture have you experienced? How have you experienced the presence of God in the Bible in this season? Name these experiences, you may even choose to write them down.

Take a moment now to thank God for these experiences. You may write a prayer of gratitude in the space below.

Step 3: Examine your spiritual practices of scripture with God
Consider the spiritual practices of scripture you identified a moment ago. Take a moment to examine your experiences with the Bible using the following questions. Listen for anything the Holy Spirit may be calling to your attention.

How have you experienced God drawing you into His life of love through scripture?

How have spiritual practices of scripture fallen short, felt dry, or
failed to invite you in God’s life of love?

Step 4: Respond
Is there a particular experience that stands out from your examination? Was there a strong emotion, positive or negative, that stands out? Is there one experience you feel the Holy Spirit
is drawing you toward, one you are being invited to hold a little longer in God’s loving presence?

Use this time to respond to God. Is there anything you want to say to God about this experience, anything you would like to ask? Speak to God, and listen for God’s response.

Step 5: Looking forward
In our final movement, let’s turn our attention forward. As you consider engaging scripture as a spiritual practice in the future, what emotions arise? Do you sense an invitation from God?
Close your time in prayer by holding your future practices in God’s loving presence.

10.7.18 Listening to God in Scripture: Lectio Divina

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How great was it to have James Bryan Smith with us last night? He shared his experience with “the jogging monk” and led us in the practice of Lectio Divina. Lectio is such a beautiful way of listening to God in scripture. It moves us as the monk explained to Jim, from examining the text to allowing the text to examine us.

I was also moved when Jim said the experience of hearing from God in Lectio is like sleep. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves sleep. We can only create the right environment for sleep to come. We also cannot make God speak, we can only create an environment and place ourselves in a posture to hear from the Lord. What an incredible metaphor, not just for the practice of Lectio Divina, but also for life with God.

Kingdom Practices
As we read scripture this week, let’s all commit to engage the practice of Lectio Divina. Let’s create a space for the scriptures to examine us to hear God. The traditional steps of Lectio are:

Reading (Lectio)
Read the text slowly and reflectively listening for what word or phrase stands out.
Meditation (Meditatio)
Read the passage again continuing to mull over what stood out.
Listen to what the Holy Spirit is speaking to you in the text.
Prayer (Oratio)
Respond to God in prayer. What would you like to say or ask God?
Speak to God and listen for the Lord’s response.
Contemplation (Contemplatio)
Letting go of our agendas and submitting to the Lord,
read the passage one final time in the loving presence of God.

9.30.18 Listening to God in Scripture: Sacred Questions

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It was wonderful to have Kellye share her experience with the practice of sacred questions and to engage in the practice together. We looked at the questions people asked Jesus in the Gospels and noticed that these were not simple questions seeking some information. They were questions that arose from deep in a person’s heart after an encounter with Jesus.

Kellye invited us to begin reading scripture with an ear toward what questions surface deep within us as we encounter Jesus in the text. When we read this way, we encounter the real presence of God in the Bible, and it is in God’s presence that we are formed.

Kellye explained reading while listening for sacred questions is a daily practice. We begin with a prayer, acknowledging, “Here I am,” ready to encounter God in the text. Then we read a large chunk of scripture and listen for the questions that arise, and bring those questions to God in prayer. Finally, we bring our questions and what we have heard from God to community.

Kingdom Practices
As we read scripture this week, let’s all commit to engage this meaningful practice. Let’s listen for the questions arising within us as we encounter the presence of God in the text.