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Jason Feffer

A Super Bowl Practice

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The Super Bowl can give rise to any number of experiences and emotions: joy, loneliness, jealousy, fun, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat. As we look forward to big game, let’s consider making these simple practices a part of our day.

Preparing for the game:
1. Spend a few minutes thinking about your plans for Sunday. In light of our worship experience on 1/29, is there a way you may be tempted to question your sense of belovedness? Maybe because of the commercials, the game itself, the people you’ll be interacting with, the people you won’t be? Spend a few moments praying the breath prayer, “God of Love, I belong to you.”

2. When we are grounded in our identity as God’s beloved children, we are free to reach out and help others experience their belovedness. Is there a person you can intentionally treat as a beloved child of God on Sunday? How can you tangibly share God’s love?

During the game:
1. Pay attention to your emotions, especially during the moments you anticipated being challenged. If you begin to notice your belovedness being called into question, recite the breath prayer, “God of Love, I belong to you.” The beauty of this is you can do it anytime, anywhere, even while the game goes on!

2. Look for an opportunity to intentionally treat another person as God’s beloved child. This might be what you thought of as you prepared for the game or some way the Holy Spirit leads you in the moment.

1.29.17 Nurtured and Nourished by God

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This year at The Practice, we are each doing the work of crafting a personal rhythm of life. A rhythm will begin with a description of the life you desire at the deepest level, the life you long for in your relationship with God, your relationship with self, your relationship with others, and your relationship with the world.

Last night Shauna led us deep into our relationship with self and our belovedness. She started with a statement, “The love of God is the purest nourishment, the precise thing our souls and minds and bodies need in order to do the good work to which we’ve been called” and continued to unpack this statement using the Biblical metaphor of God as a nursing mother (Isaiah 49:15, 66:13, and Hosea 11:3-4). Like a mother, God is powerful, capable, trustworthy, sacrificial, and able to not only nourish but to heal if we allow ourselves “to be nurtured and nourished by a life-changing, soul-altering love.”

Our practice last night was the ancient discipline of breath prayer. I loved hearing how meaningful this practice has been for so many in our community last night. The specific breath prayer we prayed brought the last two weeks together, “God of Love, I belong to you.”

This week, will you join me in committing to two kingdom practices? First, please continue to reflect on the life you desire to live in your relationship with God, self, others, and the world. Specifically, how do you long for the reality of your belovedness to play out in your life? How do you want to be nurtured and nourished by God? Second, will you commit to praying our breath prayer each day this week? Set aside five to ten minutes to repeat the prayer reflectively and continue to pray it throughout the day. (You can find more information on the discipline of breath prayer here.)

We have been speaking a great deal about the first half of a rhythm of life, a description of the life we desire. The second half of our rhythm is the disciplines we will practice; the disciplines that open us to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit so that we can become the kind of people who can live the lives we long for. As you engage these disciplines, pay attention to which ones connect with you and your desires. These are the disciplines we will be looking to include in our rhythms of life.

Additional Resources:
Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen is both a simple and profound exploration of our belovedness
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton casts a beautiful vision for a rhythm of life.
Crafting a Rule of Life by Stephen Macchia is a practical resource for building a rhythm of life.
God in My Everything by Ken Shigematsu is another wonderful book about rhythms of life
Being Disciples is a short read (and FREE!) about the role of the spiritual disciplines on this journey.
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun is the best and most comprehensive resource for individual disciplines around.

1.22.17 God is not loving; God is love.

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This year as we each do the work of crafting a personal rhythm of life, we will continue to explore our deepest desires in our relationship with God, our relationship with self, our relationship with others, and our relationship with the world. Last night Jonathan Martin helped us dive into love at the center of God’s character. I can’t stop thinking about his statement, “God is not loving; God is love.”

As you listened to Jonathan, what was stirring in you? Where did you sense the Holy Spirit whispering? How do you long for this to be made real in your life? As you reflect on the life you long for in your relationship with God, how do you long for God’s love to become a practical reality?

Our practice for the evening was a form of mediation. Jonathan led us to focus on our image of God in our holy creator’s presence, and he guided us into Matthew 14:27 as Jesus says to the apostles, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” Our kingdom practice for the week is to continue this practice of meditation either on our image of God or on Matthew 14:27. Let’s sit with it this week. Let’s mull it over and ponder it in the presence of God.

Remember that a rhythm of life is both a description of the life we long to live and the way we will live it; specifically, what disciplines will we practice to open us to the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit to help us become the people we were created to be and live the lives we long for at the deepest level. We will continue to learn and practice new disciplines this year. As we do, let’s spend time in each of them looking for the disciplines the Spirit may be inviting us into this season.

Additional Resources:
Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith is a wonderful resource for exploring who God’s character
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton casts a beautiful vision for a rhythm of life.
Crafting a Rule of LifeSpiritual Disciplines Handbook by Stephen Macchia is a practical resource for building a rhythm of life.
Being Disciples is a short read (and FREE!) about the role of the spiritual disciplines on this journey.
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun is the best and most comprehensive resource for individual disciplines around.

1.15.17 Rhythm of Life

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Last night, we kicked off the next step in our journey at The Practice. So many of us have felt the ache for a deeper or more meaningful life. There is a gap between the life we long for and the life we are living. When we explore this ache with God, we find our most fundamental longing is for the life we were created to live, a life of wholeness and integrity, a life where everything is as it was created to be, a life of Shalom. This is the life we find when we make our home in God (John 15:1-8).

This year at The Practice we are going to do the work of making our home in God. We will be learning how to intentionally arrange our lives to keep company with Jesus and become the kind of people who can live a life of Shalom. We will do this together by crafting personal rhythms of life.

A rhythm of life is a description of the life we long for and the disciplines we will practice to open ourselves to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit to close the gap between the life we long for and the life we are living. We are going to base our descriptions of the life we desire on four relationships. What do we long for in our relationship with God, our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with others, and our relationship with the world?

Have a listen to last night’s podcast here.

Our practice for the evening was to start our exploration of our desires in these four relationships. (You can see the questions we used at the bottom of the page.) Our kingdom practice this week is to soak in these desires. Continue to explore them with God. How can you intentionally arrange your week to reflect on these desires with God? Let’s begin our work this year with a compelling vision for the life our deepest desires point us toward.

 

Additional Resources:
Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Barton casts a beautiful vision for a rhythm of life.
Crafting a Rule of LifeSpiritual Disciplines Handbook by Stephen Macchia is a practical resource for building a rhythm of life.
Being Disciples is a short read (and FREE!) about the role of the spiritual disciplines on this journey.
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Calhoun is the best and most comprehensive resource for individual disciplines around.

 

Describe the relationship you desire to have with God.
What does it look like in times of pain and struggle?
What does it look like in times of joy and celebration?
What do you want from God? What do you need from God?

Describe the relationship you desire to have with yourself.
How do you want to speak to yourself?
How do you want to respond to guilt, shame, and sin in your life?
What does this look like when you feel the pull to act like someone you are not?
How do you want to see and care for your body?
How do you want to use the resources you have been given?

Describe the relationship you desire to have with others.
What kind of person you want to be toward the people in your life and what you want from them?
How do you want to represent the love and grace of God to others? How do you want to receive the love and grace of God from others?
What does this look like in your family?
What does this look like with your friends?

Describe the relationship you desire to have with the world.
How you would like strangers you interact with throughout the day to experience your presence?
What do you long to be true about the way you live in your current job?
Describe how you want your gifts and passions to lead you to partner with God in his kingdom work intentionally?

12.11.16 Advent: Hope for new beginnings

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curtisLast night our gathering was once again blanketed in both snow and the presence of God. We opened with an antiphonal reading of the Magnificat, and continued to sing and reflect upon the glorious revelation of God with us.

Curtis followed Jerusalem’s invitation to identify with the longing of Advent with a call to hope. Every one of us has an innate longing for new beginnings, but so often they seem out of reach. Advent is a season in which we come face to face with the reality that our hope is fulfilled in God’s presence. We remember “our Holy God is intimately acquainted with our sinful, broken pieces.”

mary-comforts-eveOur practice for the evening was a visio divina on this painting. We soaked in the image and put ourselves in Eve’s place asking what new beginning we long for this Advent. Then, we turned to the Christ candle and brought our hope to God, who is closer than the air we breathe.

If you were unable to make it last night I hope you will find time to listen to the podcast and Curtis’s beautiful invitation to bring our hope for new beginnings to Emmanuel, God with us.

Our first Kingdom Practices is to continue the prayer we began last night. Let’s keep bringing our hope for new beginnings to Jesus this Christmas season. You may even light a candle, turn down the lights, and rest in God’s holy presence. Our second practice is to continue with the Advent garland Jerusalem brought us last week. If you did not get a kit, you can download a copy of the instructions here.

Two final notes as we close out 2016 with The Practice.

Last night the second ever Practice Survey was emailed. We would love it if you would take 15 minutes to complete the survey here. Your responses will help us better understand who we are as a community, how we fit in the larger Willow discipleship ministry, and how we as The Practice Team can better serve you. I promise we will personally read every single response.

Finally, I am really excited about our plans for 2017. We are going to begin the year exploring and developing a personal rhythm of life, a way of arranging our lives to walk and work with Jesus and learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I can’t wait to join you in that journey with you.

2017_practicepostcardv2

Grace and peace,
Jason and The Practice Team

12.4.16 Advent: We begin in the dark

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imageAs the first snow fell outside, we gathered last night in the warmth of the chapel to began our Advent journey. Our first reading interposed the hope of “O Come Emmanuel” and the fear of Mary and Joseph as they heard from the angel.

After our new friend, Jacques Bornman, led us in a reflection on Micah 5, we lifted up those who groan in anticipation of Jesus’ return. We confessed our part in the brokenness of our world and received the prophetic assurance from Isaiah 9.

Jerusalem Greer then helped us identify with the longing of Advent. The first day of the church calendar does not begin with Jesus’ birth. Advent begins with nothing, with fear, and with pain. “We start,” Jerusalem said, “in the dark.” It is the tenderness of this ache that leaves us exposed, and this position of openness is an utterly appropriate place for us to begin the year.

The point of Advent is to get in touch with our desperation, sadness, and heartbreak. It is a time to realize we need Christ and each other. After all, “What good is Christmas,” Jerusalem said, “if we don’t need it?” The invitation of Advent is to open our hearts to the whispered promise of hope.

We engaged our ache and need for one another last night as we literally crossed the room to share with someone why Christmas will be hard this year. This led us to the kingdom practices for this week and the next three weeks. Jerusalem brought us kits to create an Advent garland. The kits include a tag with an activity for each day this month. They include things like:

• Spend some time wrapping gifts and say a prayer for each person you are gifting as your wrap.
• Read Luke 1:26-28, 31 and reflect on when you have known God was with you.
• Give away good parking spots, stand in the longest lines, let others go first at every turn.

Each day we can pull one tag from the garland and do that practice as a way of living in both the longing and the hope of Advent. You can download a copy of the activities and directions for creating your own Advent garland here.

Let’s commit to living in the ache and hope this Advent as we celebrate Emmanuel.

Grace and peace,
Jason and The Practice Team

11.20.16 Blessed are Those Who are Persecuted for Righteousness

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slack-for-ios-upload-1-nullHow can we possibly sum up the journey we have been on this fall? In so many ways, it culminates in these final two Beatitudes. As we follow Jesus in the kingdom way, we become the kind of people who love deeply and sacrificially. And when we embody this radical love, we open ourselves to the possibility of persecution.

After singing “Open Up” and reflecting once again on Matthew 5, Clary shared examples of persecution in our world, and he taught that Jesus invites us into a life of radical love. Jesus promises there is a cost associated to loving like him. We explored what we might be holding too tightly because we have bought into the lie that our happiness, our safety, our comfort, and even our lives are more important than others.

Clary brought the kingdom reality, the truth that God’s kingdom is greater than anything we might be clinging to. Jesus promises that when we lose our life we will find it. When we are willing to let go of our pride, our image, and our very own life, we will find Christ. And while persecution is painful, there is peace in the persecution. There is peace in the knowledge that God’s kingdom is being formed in us, and we know we will one day experience the fullness of his kingdom.

After a practice and prayer of surrender, we gathered at the ultimate representation of radical, sacrificial love, the communion table. And we looked forward to our work of living into these final two Beatitudes with our three kingdom practices.

Kingdom Practices
1. Prayer of surrender – This week, let’s continue to ask the Holy Spirit to lead us in sacrificial love. If it is helpful, use your hands. Imagine the cost of loving radically, the thing you struggle to surrender, is resting in your hands. Clench your fists. Pray over the thing you are clinging to, and as a physical representation of your desire to surrender open your hands.
2. Love your enemies – Make time this week to write a list of people who you consider enemies. Commit to pray daily for each of them, and find one tangible act of love to perform for someone on your list.
3. Defend the oppressed – Find one way these next two weeks to stand in solidarity with a marginalized group of people. You might write a letter to elected representatives, use social media to create awareness about an issue of justice, or participate in a peaceful demonstration.

As this is the final recap of our time in the Beatitudes, let me share Curtis’ beautiful benediction based on the Beatitudes.

May you know deeply that you have enough and that you are enough
as you live the way of trust.

May you know comfort in your grief
as you live the way of lament.

May you experience fully your status as a beloved child of God
as you live the way of humility.

May you feel your power
as you join with God to live the way of justice.

May you see everyone you meet through lenses of mercy
as you live the way of compassion.

May you drop your masks and be who God made you to be
as you live the way of right motive.

May you build bridges of reconciliation
as you live the way of peacemaking.

May you be transformed through surrender
as you live the way of sacrifice.

May you look for opportunities to follow Jesus
in the way of radical love.

11.13.16 Blessed are the Peacemakers

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slack-for-ios-upload-nullThe chapel was thick with the presence of the Holy Spirit last night. It is clear that God is up to something in our community as we enter into the work of being peacemakers, people of Shalom, in our broken world.

The focus of our opening liturgy was seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness. I couldn’t help but think back to Meredith’s teaching that biblical righteousness is relational while Sam was leading us in a new chorus, “We seek your kingdom, seek your righteousness.” This chorus was woven into our reading of Matthew 6.

After passing the peace, (Could there be a more appropriate time for this practice?) Aaron acknowledged our current reality. “We have forgotten how listen. We have forgotten how to learn from anyone outside our tribe. We have forgotten how to tangibly love our neighbors as ourselves.”

Rabbi Moffic then helped us to better understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” by teaching us about Shalom. Shalom is the word Jesus used when speaking about peace. Rabbi taught that Shalom is much more than a lack of fighting. It means wholeness, integrity, and right relationship. When we have Shalom in our relationships, we are not only free from conflict but we understand the other’s point of view.

There are about fifteen things I could say about Rabbi’s teaching, but rather than retyping his entire message, will you listen? Listen particularly for his story of one friend telling another, “How can you love me if you don’t know what hurts me?”

Then we heard three stories from our community. Lynne spoke about the difference between being an angry activist and being a peacemaker. Aaron shared a story of leaning into a relationship with our neighbors from the Al-Azhar Islamic Foundation. And Claudia spoke about her family’s commitment to literally live in the midst of poverty. All three stories demonstrated a tension between retreating from a lack of peace and engaging as genuine peacemakers.

As a community committed to putting the words of Jesus into practice, we cannot retreat. When faced with a lack of Shalom, we will not be peacemakers if we withdraw to a protective bubble, so our three kingdom practices this week are ways of leaning into peacemaking.

Kingdom Practices

  1. Prayer journal – This week continue to pray the prayer of St. Francis, and journal your prayers, asking the Holy Spirit to lead you in being an instrument of Shalom. Be consistent in this prayer and pay attention to how your prayers might change as you engage the next two practices.
  2. Diversify your news sources and social media feeds – Too many of us live in an echo chamber. We only read things with which we know we will agree. We watch news outlets that align with our leanings. Our social media feeds are full of people who look and think the same. This week be intentional about diversifying your inputs. This is not an opportunity to hone your arguments or find more things that are wrong with the “other.” Listen. Recognize the dignity and image of God in them, and listen.
  3. Take the “other” out to coffee – Rabbi spoke about the intimate connection of internal and external Shalom. The second practice is primarily focused on internal Shalom with our neighbors, but this one is a tangible step of being a peacemaker in an actual relationship. Spend some time with someone you consider the “other.” Ask questions and listen. Hear their story. Begin to understand their heart.

 

11.6.16 Blessed are the Pure in Heart

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slack-for-ios-uploadLast night Mark Scandrette, the godfather himself, led us in the sixth beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Have you been looking forward to this night to finally understand why the motion for pure in heart is “jazz hands?”

We opened the night praying through Matthew 7 and singing Stu G’s “Oh Blessed.” We examined our hearts and reflected on two challenging questions: (1) To whom have we struggled to show grace this week?, and (2) What might God be saying to us through this person?

With that, Mark offered a vision of the kingdom that invites us to live with full, undivided hearts. He reminded us of the way we lived as children. We stood on chairs buck naked eating cereal without shame. We danced with reckless abandon without considering who might be looking.

But at some point in our lives, we learned to hide. The experiences of life led us to hold back our true selves from the world and to put on masks. But the kingdom reality is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Each of us is a unique and beautiful creation, living in the tender and loving gaze of our creator.

Mark invited us to do the work of living with pure hearts through the following kingdom practices:

Kingdom Practices

  1. Daily Examen – Practice the Examen each day with a focus on living in God’s loving gaze.
    • Begin with reviewing your day in gratitude.
    • Ask on when you were aware of the caring presence and loving gaze of your creator.
    • Reflect on when you found yourself withdrawing, or forgetting that “in God I live and move and have my being.”
    • Finally, sit for 10 minutes with your eyes closed. Focus on your breath with the intention to be in the light of God’s presence. Pay attention to whatever thoughts or images arise in your mind, and observe them under the tender and loving gaze of your creator. If you find yourself overwhelmed by thoughts of guilt or shame, consider whether those come from the authentic voice of God or from the distorted images of God you have rehearsed.
  2. Secrecy – Knowing that why we do things is as important as what we do, Jesus often encouraged his followers to keep their acts of goodness and devotion a secret. Practicing secrecy can help us refine our motives. First, consider the ways you typically look for attention or affirmation for doing what is good. Then make a conscious decision to keep these actions secret this week. You may: leave the people you live or work with guessing about who washed the dishes or emptied the garbage, refrain from posting images on social media that promote your nobility, or keep quiet about your prayers, fasting or volunteer work.
  3. Good boundaries – When we live with divided hearts, we may to say yes because we are afraid to disappoint others, or we may say no because we are afraid to lose control. This is why Jesus said let your yes be yes and your no, no. Think about the situations in your life where you feel divided between what your heart says and how your mouth speaks. If you often say yes, because you’re afraid of disappointing others, find something to say no to this week. If you often say no because you’re afraid of losing control, push yourself to say yes this week.

Mark then led us in the Examen practice. The lights were dimmed, and for ten minutes we rested in God’s loving gaze. We lifted our eyes to God. The lights came up and the light of God’s tenderness filled us as we turned to the table.

Grace and peace,
Jason and The Practice Team