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Jason Feffer

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.

A Community Examen

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Our last two Practice gatherings have focused on community, specifically the practices of spiritual direction and listening groups. Community is an essential element of following Jesus. Jesus did not invite us into a solitary journey, this road was always intended to be walked together. This week, we would love to invite you to make room to reflect on your spiritual practices of community in the presence of God.

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.

Spiritual practices of community are simply disciplines that directly involve other people to cultivate deeper communion with God. A few examples of these practices might be spiritual friendships, spiritual direction, small groups (including practice tables and listening groups), and spiritual mentors. In this Examen, we will reflect on our spiritual practices of community in prayer. Let’s hold our experiences of community in God’s presence and listen for anything the Holy Spirit
might reveal to us this week.

You can download an 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 community in gratitude
Now, remaining in God’s loving presence, consider your spiritual practices of community. In this season, what spiritual practices of community have you experienced? How have you experienced the presence of God in relationship in this season? Consider both the community you have intentionally engaged as a spiritual practice, and the community that you did not seek intentionally but God brought to you. 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 community with God
Consider the spiritual practices of community you identified a moment ago. Take a moment to examine your experiences of spiritual community with the following questions in mind. 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 practices of community?

How have spiritual practices of community fallen short, disappointed you, 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 spiritual practices of community 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.

9.16.18 Listening to God in Community: Listening Groups

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Last night, we continued our time in practices of listening to God in community. Following a beautiful liturgy focused on the theme of walking with Jesus, we considered the importance of listening well. We explored the concept of “holding space.” When we hold space, we set ourselves aside in order to be fully present to another person. We allow her or him to feel what they need to feel, name what needs to be named, receive what needs to be received, and be who they were created to be all in the loving presence of God.

We then engaged a practice that helps us to hold space for one another, listening groups. In her book Seeking God Together, Alice Fryling says that listening groups “provide a place where individuals can experience what it means to be listened to and loved by others, so that they can learn to listen more attentively to God in their daily lives and be used by God to spread God’s grace and love throughout the world.”

This season at The Practice, we will be offering listening groups as a practice of formational community. Beginning on 10/14, all who are interested will gather in smaller groups to hold space and grow in community. If you are interested in joining a listening group, please let us know.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to tend to whatever we heard from God in our time together in listening groups. If you were left with some questions to ponder, let’s ponder those questions. If God spoke some truth, let’s rest in that truth. If you sensed an invitation from God, let’s respond to that invitation.

We also want to spend some time in the coming weeks examining our spiritual practices of community. Anyone who is following Jesus will engage some kind of formational community. There are a number of practices that help us to live more fully in God’s presence in community. Spiritual direction, spiritual friendships, small groups, Practice Tables, and listening groups are just a few. If you don’t have a regular practice, what might God be inviting you into in this season? If you do have a practice, how is it helping you to live more fully in God’s presence? How are you being formed through your practice?

9.9.18 Listening to God in Community: Spiritual Direction

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What a gift it was to have Carolyn Arends and Lacy Borgo with us Sunday night! Carolyn joined the band to help guide our opening liturgy, and Lacy walked us through the holy practice of spiritual direction. “It is a remarkable thing,” she said, “to tend to the presence of Christ in another person.” Lacy shared how spiritual direction helps us to pay attention and lean into God. In direction, we find the sacred in the ordinary.

Lacy guided us through a series of reflections reminiscent of those we might engage with a spiritual director. We listened to God in two texts (Acts 8:26-39 and Luke 24:13-35) and explored a childhood image of God. Lacy helped us engage our imaginations as we drew our reflections in crayon.

If you weren’t able to be with us, please make some space this week to listen and engage this practice.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to tend to the presence of God in whatever surfaced for us our reflection, and if let’s also consider if God might be inviting us to explore spiritual direction as a practice. If you are interested in finding a director, you can explore the following sites:

Network of Evangelical Spiritual Directors
Evangelical Spiritual Directors Association
Sustainable Faith

8.26.18 The Eternal Current: We Need Everybody

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What a joy it was to have Aaron back in the room last night! A beautiful opening liturgy led us to God, through confession and assurance, and culminated with Jesus declaring “I am the bread of life.” Then Aaron guided us through a teaching and practice of examining our faith tradition.

Within our community there is a great diversity in our faith traditions. Some grew up in a mainline Protestant churches. Others came to faith in the Evangelical tradition, while others experienced a Catholic, Pentecostal, or social justice upbringing. In his teaching, Aaron helped us to understand that regardless of our tradition, there are great blessings for us to hold on to. It is good for us to name them and thank God for them. It is also true that every tradition has its limitations. How can we name those limitations so we might grow to embrace the goodness of God revealed in other traditions?

Aaron then guided us through an examination of our tradition. We reflected on our experiences, but we also made space to listen to God. What is God inviting us to hold onto, and what might the Lord be inviting us to let go of from our tradition? In a time like this when we tend to view the world through a binary lens (something is either entirely good or completely bad), making space to identify and hold the tension of the blessings and the limitations of our tradition is so helpful and necessary.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to reflect on our experiences and listen to God. Where might we need to name the blessings, and where might God be inviting us to identify and grow beyond the limitations of our tradition?

8.12.18 Making Space to Grieve

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In a season like this, when our community is in pain, I am so grateful we have someone like Deirdré to guide us as we make space to grieve. We talk a lot about tending to Christ’s presence in our lives, but we cannot bring our whole selves into the presence of Jesus if we are not first present to ourselves.

When we find ourselves in seasons of pain, our natural tendency is to run from being present to the swirling emotions. Which is exactly why pausing as we did last night to grieve is so important. Deirdré reminded us that Isaiah called Jesus “the man sorrows, acquainted with grief.” We can allow our hearts to fully feel our sadness and loss in the pain, she said, because we follow one who knows personally what we are experiencing.

Deirdré then led us so beautifully through a practice of grieving. She helped us identify our emotions, hold them in the presence of God, and experience God’s loving comfort.

Kingdom Practices
This week, let’s continue to stay present to ourselves. Grieving is not a one and done practice. In the coming weeks, we will undoubtedly feel our emotions percolating to the surface. Let’s commit ourselves to stay present when they do. You many even choose to come back to this podcast and make space to let Dré guide you in this practice once again.